DETROIT -- Many dealers report only a slight increase in showroom traffic and sales since General Motors Co. begin touting a 60-day money-back guarantee a week ago.
They welcome the campaign, though, as one more way to change the public's tarnished image of GM. The company spent 39 days in U.S. Bankruptcy Court earlier this year.
"We've been fighting the perception issue for years, and there's no magic bullet," says Chris Haydocy, a Buick-Pontiac-GMC dealer in Columbus, Ohio.
On Monday, Sept. 14, GM started a money-back guarantee. A customer can choose $500 off or a 60-day trial with an option to return the vehicle.
TV spots touting the program feature Ed Whitacre, GM's new chairman, walking through the automaker's design center. He expresses his initial doubts about GM and his change of heart after seeing the products.
A Sept. 14 poll by Rasmussen Reports said 14 percent of Americans say they are more likely to buy a GM vehicle because of the money-back guarantee. But 75 percent say the offer has no impact on their purchasing decision.
Dealer Haydocy thinks the money-back deal is having some impact.
"We sold a Buick Enclave yesterday in which the people said the 60-day guarantee was part of the reason they came in," he says. "They said, 'It's exactly what we needed to know was going on at GM.' "
Other dealers say the program has changed little.
"We haven't seen any increase in traffic," says Mark Borjon, owner of Golden Hills Auto Center in Paso Robles, Calif. He sells Buicks, Pontiacs and GMCs.
"We have done a couple of deals, and they took the $500 in lieu of the 60 days," Borjon says. "They said: 'We like the car. We're not worried about it.' "
Vice Chairman Bob Lutz, GM's new head of marketing, says the campaign is intended not to drive sales immediately but to "reduce resistance" among consumers to consider GM products.
"It'll just move them over the goal line," Lutz says. "All we need is 5 to 10 percent of the undecided consumers to move over and cross that goal line."
GM's task was made more difficult earlier this year when it announced that it would eliminate brands, nameplates and dealerships. The downsizing, which included bankruptcy reorganization, disrupted a primary link with about 3 million of its customers.
GM was scheduled to launch divisional spots during the Emmy Awards broadcast Sunday, Sept. 20. Along with traditional brand advertising, some of the spots, GM said, would compare its products to those of competitors. Those commercials say, "May the best car win."