Buick launches 24-hour test drives

Melissa Burden
The Detroit News

Buick is launching 24-hour test drives as it aims to attract new customers.

A new ad featuring the “24 Hours of Happiness Test Drive” will begin airing Thursday on broadcast TV, in theaters, on digital outlets and in social media, said Molly Peck, Buick marketing director. Buick said about 1,000 dealers are participating across the U.S.

“We look at this primarily as a brand promise and a way to reach new consumers,” Peck said in an interview.

Peck said General Motors Co. hopes to introduce new potential buyers to the luxury brand. Right now, the 24-hour test drive has no end date, she said.

“The ‘24 Hours of Happiness Test Drive’ is meant to give consumers a way to experience Buick on their terms, their schedule, their leisure and experience the vehicle how it would fit in their life,” Peck said.

Other brands have done versions of overnight test drives in the past. Buick also has done an extended, overnight test drive as part of a GM promotion across all brands in 2003 and 2004. That test drive featured a financial incentive to participants if they purchased a rival automaker’s vehicle after testing a GM vehicle overnight; this promotion does not have any financial incentives.

Buick sales through the first half of the year are down 6.3 percent to 106,314. Encore subcompact crossover sales are up 29.1 percent, but Buick has struggled with sales of passenger cars including the LaCrosse, Regal and Verano.

Buick and Peck said the overnight test drive is not aimed as a sales tactic, but more for long-term brand building.

“We do think when people do test drive our vehicles and they do it at their leisure, they will make the decision to purchase,” she said.

Buick cited an AutoTrader.com study that says 88 percent of consumers indicate they would not buy a vehicle without first driving it. And in that study, consumers said they wanted more convenience and less pressure during the drive.

Test drivers must be at least 21, hold a valid driver’s license and insurance . Details are at buick.com/happiness.