Buick has launched the “24 Hours of Happiness" – a test-drive program that allows customers to take test-drive vehicles home overnight. The automaker has planned a national advertising campaign that includes TV ads. The automaker is urging dealerships to enrol in this program. But rather than being a promotion that’s short-term, Buick actually intends for this to be a long-term strategy.
This offer is a “long-term brand promise,” according to Buick brand chief Duncan Aldred. He made the decision to push through with this program on the national level after he received positive customer feedback from a pilot program that was recently conducted in the Phoenix area. When interviewed, Aldred said that this move proves to customers that they’re really confident in their vehicles.
This concept of a 24-hour test drive isn’t a new one. In 2003 to 2004, GM had a similar campaign across its brands. GM went beyond and offered to give $250 to anyone who had test-driven a GM vehicle but decided to later on buy from a rival. GM had focused on boosting sales. For the 8-month period of the promotion in 2003, it recorded more than 500,000 extended test drives.
It led to sales of nearly 190,000 units, according to Gary Cowger, GM North America President at the time. Aldred said that Buick’s strategy is different. It doesn’t have any incentive money attached to it. The program will be assessed after 3 months but this offer is likely to continue indefinitely. In a memo to dealers, Buick said that the purpose of this offer isn’t only to immediately boost showroom traffic but rather, it is a brand builder.
Henry Brown, chairman of the Buick-GMC National Dealer Council and owner of Henry Brown Buick-GMC in Gilbert, Ariz., was one of those who participated in the Phoenix pilot program. He said that fewer than predicted people took the cars overnight but the offer had made a good impression on majority of customers.
He said that it improved the brand’s image and that it had demonstrated Buick’s confidence for the customers to make up their mind about how great the car is without a salesperson seated beside them. Brown said that those who signed up for the extended test drivers were more likely to purchase a vehicle than those who took a regular test-drive.
Dealerships who enrol in the program have to already operate loaner vehicles for service customers, which is referred to as the Courtesy Transportation program.
In the last couple of years, GM was able to expand those fleets significantly throughout the Buick-GMC and Chevrolet sales channels by giving financial incentives as they assign vehicles to be courtesy loaners. Last year, GM dealers added to their courtesy fleets to help handle the influx of service work from the record safety recalls.