They pounded the 2016 diesel-powered Colorado midsize pickup over a rugged off-road course. They zipped the '16 Volt plug-in hybrid around an indoor test track set up in vacant banquet space inside a casino-hotel.
"It was by far the most interactive national dealer meeting I've been to," said Paddock, owner of Paddock Chevrolet in Kenmore, N.Y., who took three dealership managers on the trip. "My team was buzzing when they got back to the store."
That was the idea, says Brian Sweeney, U.S. vice president of Chevrolet. Sweeney says the new approach was an outgrowth of Chevy's "Find New Roads" theme, which emphasizes fresh thinking on everything from product development and marketing to the retail experience.
"We're rethinking what's possible in everything we do, and that includes this business meeting," Sweeney said.
Yes, there were business meetings, during which dealers got a sneak peek at several future vehicles, including the 2016 Chevy Cruze hatchback and a refreshed Silverado, also for 2016. (See stories, Page 6.)
Chevy also set up a large banquet room as a technology showcase, where dealers could attend short workshops on Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and upcoming new applications for the MyLink infotainment system, for example.
But there were also the two exclusive concerts that Kid Rock played for the dealers as well as about 1,000 military personnel and their families from a nearby Air Force base.
Sweeney acknowledged that the logistics and costs far exceeded a typical dealer meeting. GM's sales and marketing team had to coordinate with manufacturing to get 100 pre-production Volts, Camaros and Malibus for test drives, for example.
Dealers also heard from global Chevy boss Alan Batey and GM President Dan Ammann, who spent more than two hours at the racetrack test-driving the Camaro and chatting up dealers.