DETROIT - The Chrysler brand will try to connect with buyers by sponsoring driving events teamed with lifestyle activities this summer.
Chrysler has planned an eight-city driving tour that includes food-tasting, golf-swing analysis and cigar rolling.
Such events are good for the brand, Chrysler says, because buying rates increase when a customer test drives a vehicle. As an extra nudge, participants receive a $1,000 incentive coupon toward the purchase of a new vehicle.
"This makes it easier for owners and prospects to come see our vehicles and drive them," says Lou Bitonti, Chrysler group senior manager for brand events for Jeep and Chrysler.
"We want to increase the consideration levels for the Chrysler brand. We know that if people test
drive our vehicles, the consideration and buying rate goes up."
Prospects who test drive a vehicle are three times more likely to purchase the vehicle than those who do not test drive, he says.
In the first five months of 2005, the Chrysler brand sold 278,790 units, up 20 percent from the same period in 2004.
The eight-city tour, which began June 4, allows participants - some own Chrysler products, some don't - to try three driving courses. The events are free.
The weekend tours continue through October. Stops are Albany, N.Y.; Washington; Kansas City, Mo.; St. Louis; Columbus, Ohio; Tampa, Fla.; Dallas; and Phoenix.
Invitations are mailed to Chrysler owners, Web site visitors and others who have expressed interest in Chrysler products.
Three driving courses are available. Prospects drive two courses with an instructor in the passenger seat, Bitonti says. The courses are designed to test braking, handling, acceleration and turns, he says.
The third "thrill ride" allows prospects to travel in a Chrysler Crossfire or Chrysler 300 SRT-8 with a professional driver from the Skip Barber driving school.
"There is no sales pitch," Bitonti says.
Company engineers and representatives from suppliers are there to answer questions, he says. For example, Continental Teves and Sirius Radio are among supplier participants.
An estimated 35,000 people will participate in the tour, Bitonti says. The company will not disclose the cost.
You may e-mail Mary Connelly at