DETROIT - Some dealers are shrugging their shoulders at General Motors' Hot Button marketing program.
The contest is building showroom traffic but not necessarily sales, they say.
Hot Button contestants can win one of 1,000 vehicles from a range of 54 models by pushing the OnStar button in vehicles in dealer showrooms.
"We saw some traffic the first few days, but we really could have used that money on the hoods of cars," said a sales manager at a Saturn store in Florida, who declined to give his name. "With the competition out there right now, incentives would have helped."
GM spokesperson Deborah Silverman says Hot Button is intended to increase dealer traffic and not spur immediate sales.
Hot Button started Jan. 5 and ends Feb. 29. The promotion is costing about $50 million, including $25 million for the free vehicles.
Contestants give their name, ZIP code and the last four digits of their driver's license. After listening to an OnStar commercial for about a minute, contestants are told immediately if they won a new vehicle.
"The only people participating in Hot Button are the people that come in to buy a car and go over and push the Hot Button," said a Saturn dealer in the Washington, D.C., area who declined to be named. "Either that or customers who are in for service go over and push the hot button."
But a Chevrolet-Buick salesman in a Texas dealership likes the program. "It's done a great job of getting people in the seats of our new product," he said, declining to be identified.
But he acknowledges that it is hard to say whether it is building sales.
"We can never actually see a correlation (between promotions and sales), but we've seen a lot of people come through the doors," he said.
GM sees the program as a good way to get traffic in dealerships during a low-traffic time of the year. The company's market share fell 0.4 percent in 2003 because of a slow start in the first quarter. GM wants to avoid a repeat for 2004.