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GM dealers offer Toyota test drives

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GM dealers offer Toyota test drives

Shoppers will be able to compare the Camry and Accord to the Saturn Aura and, shortly, to the new Chevrolet Malibu as well.

By Peter Valdes-Dapena, CNNMoney.com staff writer

POSTED: 3:02 p.m. EDT, May 25, 2007

Posted Image

courtesy of Wikipedia.com

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- If you want to test drive a Toyota Camry or Honda Accord, starting next month you'll be able to do it at a Saturn dealership. General Motors is asking Saturn dealers to have one or more of the competing models in the showroom so customers can look at it, sit in it and drive it.

Of course, Saturn dealers can't sell you an Accord or Camry. But they hope that, when you see a Toyota or Honda sedan next to the Saturn Aura, you'll decide to buy the Aura.

"In that side-by-side comparison, we come out really well," said Mark LaNeve, head of North American sales and marketing for General Motors.

Later this year, Chevrolet dealers will be doing the same thing as they introduce customers to the redesigned Chevrolet Malibu, which shares its engineering platform with the Aura.

In focus group research, GM has shown potential customers new GM models next to competing vehicles with all brand identifications removed and, said LaNeve, customers have reacted well to the GM products.

Another advantage for GM dealers in having competing products on site is that customers may not need to set foot in a competing dealership before making a purchase decision.

"I think we can stand up to the comparison," said Wade Hoyt, a Toyota spokesman.

Auto salespeople always research the competition, he said, and prepare advantageous comparisons to offer customers considering another product.

"They talk down the competition all the time," said Hoyt, "so this is just taking it one step further"

According to industry newspaper Automotive News, sales for the Saturn Aura, which was voted Car of the Year by automotive journalists in January, 2007, have been disappointing for GM. So far this year, about 18,000 Auras have been sold, according to Autodata, a company that tracks car sales.

Part of the reason GM is willing to take this step, said LaNeve, is because the company has little to lose. Midsized sedan shoppers often don't even consider GM products, he said, instead going straight to Honda and Toyota dealers.

The Toyota Camry and Honda Accord are now the two best-selling cars in America.

"Over the course of a few years that became the default choice," said LaNeve.

GM has sold about 48,400 of the current version of the Malibu so far this year. Meanwhile, Toyota has sold about 145,000 Camrys.

GM wouldn't even consider doing something like this with its SUVs, said LaNeve. GM currently holds about a 70 percent market share in large SUVs, so there would be little to gain from bringing Toyota Sequoias into Chevrolet dealerships to compare to the Tahoe.

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This seems like a pretty good idea to me. I just spent a lot of time on car lots before buying a Corolla about a week ago and I drove the Camry and the Aura. While I went with the smaller car because it was a better fit and the Corolla because there was not contest between the Ion and Toyota.....I have to say that the Aura was every bit the equal of the Camry for THOUSANDS less. A stripped down Camry can compete with the Aura in price but it still has the unusual styling that is hard to get used to. The Aura has all the looks you'd expect from a German or other European car and you don't have to strip it of cool options to get the price down around $22,000.

I think if you could get people on the lot to compare them you'd sell an Aura almost every time. Resale and reputation are important but maybe not $3-4,000 important.

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I've never been too keen on the Aura's bug-eyed looks but that black one pictured does look sharp.

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In focus group research, GM has shown potential customers new GM models next to competing vehicles with all brand identifications removed and, said LaNeve, customers have reacted well to the GM products.

This sounds kind of like the experiment I proposed in my psychology essay!

Yeah, there's no point in putting a Sequio there...everyone with half a brain would choose the Tahoe anyway! It's like adding insult to injury.

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Part of the reason GM is willing to take this step, said LaNeve, is because the company has little to lose. Midsized sedan shoppers often don't even consider GM products, he said, instead going straight to Honda and Toyota dealers.

Yeah, but at the same time, this may also get GM shoppers to consider an Accord or Camry...

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Yeah, but at the same time, this may also get GM shoppers to consider an Accord or Camry...

the arrogant honda and toyota dealers will p1ss them off.

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Nearly all of our customers are shopping the Accord or the Camry, even the Elantra. If properly executed, this is a brilliant idea. However, the difficulty is that most salespeople are not equipped to handle this properly.

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On Fridays I recieve a weekly email from USA Today's auto writer, James R. Healey. I thought you all might enjoy this question and answer.

Q: I am a Toyota salesman and I just sold 4 Camrys to some GM dealers.Do you think they are going to rig the cars or they'll do a straight comparison? Posted ImageA: GM's Saturn brand is buying Camrys and Accords to have at Saturn dealerships for comparison drives vs. the Saturn Aura. They sure don't need to rig the cars. Aura's a sweetie and in most ways every bit as good a choice as Camry or Accord.

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On Fridays I recieve a weekly email from USA Today's auto writer, James R. Healey. I thought you all might enjoy this question and answer.

what makes me mad about this is the 500 or so Camrys that will be added to the sales tally. oh well, though take one in the groin so that the end result works in your favor.

this will definitely work in Saturn's favor. A car shopper is like shopping different brands of jeans at different stores. They have to try what's out there until they feel they've gotten the right fit. Except this only happens once every few years, and it's a much more delicate decision. And the decision is always precipitated by a "safe" choice that has "reliability". Many times, people will go to one dealer first and like the car but feel like they still need to go check out the competition just to feel like they've done the homework. Getting three in one at one place, and loving one [saturn] will obligate many, and free many more from having to spend time with another salesman. The Saturn salesman could do very well with this, especially because they aren't pushy and they are selling an attractive piece of metal.

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Hmm, what if the customer insists on buying the Accord instead? Will the Saturn dealer sell it to her with no-haggle pricing?

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Does anyone know for a fact how this is working out for Saturn and their dealers?

Chris

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I think this is a good move, really. It's this kind of down and dirty, yet honest, advertising which will save GM. GM is showing confidence in its new products that Chrysler Corp. and Ford obviously lack at the moment. I give GM a standing ovation for it.

Now turning to something that raised my eyebrows ...

"I think we can stand up to the comparison," said Wade Hoyt, a Toyota spokesman. "[GM talks] down the competition all the time [...] so this is just taking it one step further"

I think you should gaze within yourselves, Mr. Hoyt and Toyota. Look at how you've seemingly bought awards (undeserving products such as yours with recall histories rivaling that of a Pinto most certainly do not deserve any sort of "Car of the Year" award) and just funneled millions of PR dollars into the cause of rubbing the domestic automakers' noses in it. On behalf of GM mostly, let me say these two words: f@#k You.

Edited by YellowJacket894
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Nearly all of our customers are shopping the Accord or the Camry, even the Elantra. If properly executed, this is a brilliant idea. However, the difficulty is that most salespeople are not equipped to handle this properly.

I agree 100%!

No offense to any of the great salespeople at this site, but most of the GM and Ford salespeople I've interacted with were eff-ing idiots.

I think this is a good move, really. It's this kind of down and dirty, yet honest, advertising which will save GM. GM is showing confidence in its new products that Chrysler Corp. and Ford obviously lack at the moment. I give GM a standing ovation for it.

I dunno... Ford is getting very aggressive with the new Fusion ads and apparently they are seeing results. But I agree, this is the kind of marketing GM and Ford have needed for 10-20 years now... The only difference is that they now have the PRODUCT to back it up. (finally)

Edited by FUTURE_OF_GM
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