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SEE ALSO: Cadillac Buyer's Guide

1999 Cadillac Seville STS

by John Heilig


MODEL:                   Cadillac Seville STS
ENGINE:                  4.6-liter DOHC V-8
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE:       300 hp @6000 rpm/295 lb-ft @4400 rpm
TRANSMISSION:            Four-speed automatic
FUEL ECONOMY:            17 mpg city, 26 mpg highway
WHEELBASE:               112.2 in.
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 201.0 x 75.0 x 55.4 in.
CURB WEIGHT:             4001 lbs.
FUEL CAPACITY:           18.5 gal.
LUGGAGE CAPACITY:        15.7 cu. ft.
TIRES:                   P235/60ZR16
INSTRUMENTS:             Speedometer, tachometer, fuel gauge,
                         water temperature, digital clock.
EQUIPMENT:               Power windows, power door locks, power mirrors,
                         power seats, heated seats, cruise control,
                         air conditioner, AM-FM stereo radio with
                         in-dash cassette player and in-dash CD player,
                         anti-lock four-wheel disc brakes,
                         dual front air bags.

Cadillac was embarrassed by its losing the luxury car sales crown to Lincoln last year. This year, the company is embarking on an aggressive marketing plan that is designed to bring that crown back to the crest and laurel division.

We had an opportunity to participate in this new form of lifestyle marketing and I must admit I was impressed. My wife insists I was impressed because there were beautiful women involved, but I was also impressed by the program.

Cadillac is taking the cars to the people, realizing that the demographics of the people they are trying to attract probably won't take the initiative of going into their neighborhood dealer. We met up with the tour at Dick Clark's American Bandstand Grille in King of Prussia, Pa., but you can find them at golf courses, driving ranges and restaurants in Dallas, Los Angeles, Houston, San Antonio, San Francisco, Chicago, Cleveland, New York, Atlanta and Miami. The cars we drove were headed for Miami for an early August demo.

At each location, Cadillac recruits models - the two-legged kind - to act as spokesmodels. These young women learn all the features of the STS, Catera and Escalade and then undergo two days of training. At the site, they greet people leaving restaurants and ask them if they'd be interested in taking one of the vehicles for a spin.

Once in the car, the spokesmodels brief the potential customer on the features of the particular Cadillac they're interested in, and then go with the person for a short ride to demonstrate the features. Our ride was in an STS, because that was the only model still in the parking lot, but we could have chosen any one of the cars.

"We want to bring the Cadillacs to the people, because they probably won't go to the dealer," said Jenni Shreeves, who is administering the program for KBA Marketing for Cadillac. The customers get excited about it. We try to pick places that are demographically specific and we're always looking for new locations."

Ms. Shreeves said she worked at a charity event in Dallas and her models gave demonstration rides to Kathy bates and Dennis Quaid at the Dallas Film Festival. At the Super Bowl, her team chauffeured all the stars from their hotels to the stadium.

"People love the cars," she added. "Most say they'd buy one if they could write a check right now, especially with the Escalade. But we can't sell them a car even if they have cash, so I think they feel a lot less pressured when they're in the cars. We try to make it fun and exciting. The girls don't care if they sell a car, they're just doing their job to sell the features."

Our spokesmodel was Bronwyn Smith of the Paul Midiri Agency in Philaelphia, and her helpers were Sandy and Bobbi.

Mack Trucks is also reaching out to its potential customers through a similar tour. "Going back five or six years, Mack has not been considered a highway truck," said Dan Danko, Director of Marketing operations for Mack. "With our new Vision truck, we just want to get Mack in the consideration set the next time they're buying a truck. Our old tag line was 'Drive one and you'll know,' and we still feel that way. We're forcing the customers into the dealer and we're also changing the dealer mindset from being simply a vocational truck dealer."

Mack's Vision Tour travels to more than 75 truck stops around the country and in Canada. At the stops, fleet buyers and owner-operators have an opportunity to look at the truck, check its specifications, and take it for a supervised drive. According to Danko, the program has been very successful, with as many as 30 people taking the trucks for drives at a stop. Mack contracted drivers administer the operation at the particular site.

With the competition for new customers in cars - and trucks - getting heavier, manufacturers are always looking for new ways to market their products to give themselves an edge. Cadillac and Mack are taking their products to the customers, rather than waiting for the customers to casually wander into a showroom.