It took style and creativity to lure customers into showrooms in 2009.
Going to market
A Buick TV commercial called "Photo Shoot" cast the Enclave crossover and LaCrosse sedan as models at a fashion photography session. But the spot was criticized by Bob Lutz shortly after the longtime product czar took charge of General Motors Co.'s marketing last summer. Lutz demanded changes in Buick advertising, although a few months later he shifted to a different role at GM.
Tracy Tingue said Amber, Mercedes and Alexis were just attractive sales tools that drew attention to his used-car lot in Chandler, Ariz. But to the city fathers, they were illegal "temporary signage," with cleavage. The city ordered Tingue to remove the busty female mannequins from his lot.
Vowing to improve its market share in California, General Motors Co. threw a ritzy affair in Hollywood in November. More than 1,000 people turned out for the party at the Hollywood Palladium. Guests bellied up to the bar and dined on Wolfgang Puck's short ribs, shrimp and elegant chocolate desserts. Said David Simpson, a Buick-GMC dealer in Buena Park: "It's money better spent than on a TV ad. When they do events like this, people notice."
During the cash-for-clunkers craze last summer, one dealership's attention-getter was a huge garbage bin. In a marketing stunt for the federal program, Berger Family Dealerships in Hazleton, Pa., tossed a car into a bin in front of the store. Sales Manager Jim Kennedy, left, and President Earl Berger inspected their handiwork.
Ed Whitacre, once unknown in the auto industry, quickly shook things up as chairman and later interim CEO of General Motors Co. His first move as chairman was to star in a TV spot, ambling through GM's design studios as he announced the automaker's 60-day money-back guarantee on new vehicles.