Olds’ Alero Launch Stalled

GM Strike Also Delays Silhouette, Sierra, Denali Intros
DETROIT–The lingering strike at General Motors will delay the $80 million launch campaign for the new Oldsmobile Alero until late September at the earliest, sources said.
The strike, which already has cost the automaker $1.2 billion, has also imperiled the launch of the Silhouette Premiere minivan and GMC’s new trucks: the Sierra pickup, and the Envoy and Yukon Denali sport utility vehicles.
“We’re playing it day by day, week by week,” said Olds representative Randy Fox. “As of right now, we’re on a tentative hold here.”
Alero has been considered one of the automaker’s biggest ’99-model launches and potentially Olds’ highest-volume car line, with expected annual sales in the 150,000 range. GM built only about 2,000 Aleros before the strike, Fox said, enough for one unit to be shipped to each dealership.
Even if the strike were to end within the week, Olds will not have sufficient Aleros to warrant a full rollout until late September, sources said. The launch was originally scheduled for mid-August.
Leo Burnett and Olds are continuing to develop the launch campaign, Fox said. Its likely ad theme, “Start something,” now appears on the car’s Web site. Burnett officials declined comment.
Fox said inventory problems may also delay the August kickoff of ads tied to a Blockbuster Video promotion for the Silhouette Premiere minivan [Adweek, June 22]. Olds spent $20 million on the van last year, and that figure had been expected to grow for 1998.
Regardless of the strike’s outcome, the GMC truck and sport utility division will be repositioned with a new tagline from Ammirati Puris Lintas in New York, “Do one thing. Do it well,” in an attempt to position GMC as the truck of professionals. Singer and actor Henry Rollins provides the voiceover for the new GMC campaign, according to Rollins’ management firm.
“Do one thing ” replaces McCann-Erickson’s “Comfortably in command.”
Ads for the Envoy and Denali from APL were supposed to break in May, but quality problems with the Envoy delayed the launch and then both vehicles were hurt by the strike. Another GM launch, for the ’99 model Chevrolet Silverado pickup, isn’t scheduled until late 1998.
Olds is continuing summer print advertising for its Aurora and Intrigue models. A national TV campaign for Bravada is set for August. “You can’t go silent,” said Fox.
–with Sloane Lucas and David Kiley