June 14, 2012 11:41 AM
Chrysler Group executives know that when people have firsthand
experiences with the latest Chrysler, Jeep®, Dodge, Ram Truck
and Fiat vehicles, it helps sell vehicles. And, what better way to
showcase the interiors, the capabilities, quality and overall
improvements of the latest products than to take them directly to
the public. One such dose of experiential marketing is the
Company’s “Ride & Drive” program, allowing
prospective customers the opportunity to get behind the wheel of
their favorite Chrysler Group cars and trucks and obtain additional
product information in a casual setting.
The Chrysler Group brands are reaching out to potential buyers by
staging ride & drives where consumers spend their leisure time
– at school functions, shopping malls, sporting events, music
festivals and even auto shows. The reasoning is that people seem to
enjoy checking out new vehicles in relaxed settings while, in some
cases, even raising money for charity.
Ride & drive locations often vary by brand and, in many cases,
are at locations that match the lifestyles of the individual brand
customers, such as the Academy of Country Music Awards ACM
Experience (Ram), Drive 4 the Kids events at elementary schools
(Chrysler), high school Booster Club fundraisers (Dodge), Camp Jeep
auto show test tracks (Jeep) and the Detroit Jazz Fest (Fiat).
“Typically, the scenery isn’t a big factor,” said
George Neill, head of marketing strategy and operations for
Chrysler Group. “The opportunity to test drive the vehicles
provides most of the fun and excitement. More important factors are
being in places that allow for an interesting drive route and where
the consumers have enough time to spend on the drive.”
Amen. Buyers find that the freedom to experience all the amenities
the vehicle has to offer ON THEIR TIMELINE is a beautiful thing.
Ride & drives have been around for years, starting with luxury
vehicles. In 1993, the Chrysler brand was the first automotive
manufacturer to directly support schools in communities through its
“Drive 4 the Kids” fundraising events. Ride &
drives have now evolved to include all Chrysler Group brands with
the thought being that by participating in a wider range of
lifestyle events, a wider range of consumers are now able to see
and drive the products.
“In addition, we can highlight a vehicle’s capability
for that specific consumer,” adds Neill. “For example,
many rodeo attendees have a need for a vehicle with towing
capability. We can then demonstrate Ram truck’s tow
capabilities that answer the lifestyle needs of this specific
Ride & drives are just the beginning of a dialog with potential
buyers, as many participants choose to receive more product
information or visit the brand web and social media sites. The
hopeful final result is having the interested person plan a
Neill says social media continues to play a bigger role in
Chrysler’s experiential marketing activities.
“Separately, the relationship started at a test drive and
continues through our digital media process,” Neill explains.
“The consumers have an opportunity to ask for more product
information from Chrysler Group and/or their local dealership. They
will then receive contact via email, physical mail or phone
And don’t forget online chatter. A survey by Chicago-based
Marketing Werks shows that 60 to 70% of people get on their
computers and tell their friends about an experience they just had.
They tell them if it's a good experience or a bad experience, so
the experiential event of a ride & drive has to be
The first all-test-drive auto show premiers in Long Beach, Calif.,
June 15-17, and will feature more than 100 vehicles for guests to
test drive. Among the models available will be the 2013 Dodge Dart,
making its first public showing in a ride & drive
And you can be sure the social media outlets will be buzzing during
and after the show.
We’ve come a long way from the time when placing fliers on
car windshields at shopping centers was considered high-end