Take several striking new vehicles. Add thousands of interested customers. Then mix.
Chrysler and Jeep are presenting their latest offerings in 12 major U.S. cities. This year's "Art of Driving" tour began in Los Angeles in April and ends Aug. 28-29 in Dallas. Shows in some cities, including Chicago, have attracted 4,000 visitors over a weekend.
The Chrysler group expects nearly 50,000 potential customers to attend the dealer-coordinated driving events. The road show will be the automaker's second-largest consumer event this year. Its Camp Jeep and Jeep 101 driving events attract about 100,000 enthusiasts.
"Our lineup has driven a lot of interest," says Jeff Bell, Chrysler group vice president of marketing for Chrysler and Jeep. "But the shows also stimulate brand awareness. A picture is worth a thousand words, but experience is worth a thousand pictures."
Bell says Chrysler is increasing its spending on event marketing this year but would not provide specific figures. The company is expected to spend more next year as it adds programs.
Jeff Schuster, executive director of global forecasting for J.D. Power and Associates, says Chrysler marketers "almost have to do" events such as the driving tour.
"They're hoping sales will be better to support the programs, and they will get more loyal customers," Schuster says. "Camp Jeep did do that."
Participants in the Art of Driving tour can test Chrysler and Jeep vehicles at on- and off-road driving courses. They can compare the products with competitors such as the BMW Z4, Ford Freestar, Hummer, Volkswagen New Beetle convertible, Cadillac CTS, and Toyota Sienna and Avalon.
The shows also feature equipment demonstrations such as Stow 'n Go seating on the Chrysler Town & Country minivan. Participants can take advantage of lifestyle events such as instruction programs devoted to golf, cooking and cigar rolling. There also are special events for Chrysler 300 and PT Cruiser enthusiasts and a safety exhibit.
Chrysler models the consumer show after its loyalty programs for Jeep owners. It holds Camp Jeep and Jeep 101 events at nationwide vacation spots.
Bell says the company plans to add three cities to the tour next year.