Here's an article from VA paper on VIN #004...
Advertisers Get Creative
By Hill Vaden
The Winchester Star
Most television stations, news publications, and Web sites can attribute the majority of their income to one primary source — advertising revenue. Unfortunately for a number of advertisers, these traditional venues have become so “cluttered” that many consumers are muting the traditional commercials and simply ignoring the ads located in the corners of periodical pages and Web sites.
Companies are increasingly forced to become more creative in outwitting their competitors. A good example can currently be seen in a series of DaimlerChrysler AG television commercials featuring the unconventional duo of rapper Snoop Dogg and 1980s Chrysler icon Lee Iacocca.
“Thank you Mocha Cocca,” Dogg says in one ad, using his trademark, self-invented dialect. “Chrysler and Jeep came up on beaucoup awards and Dodge trucks last as long as the D-O-double gizzle.”
(“I don’t know what the hell Snoop is saying,” Iacocca admits in an article from The Detroit News earlier this month.)
In Donald Trump, General Motors Corp. has also recently employed the unconventional advertising services of a 1980s business celebrity.
Trump’s hit NBC program, The Apprentice, was used this spring as the platform to market GM’s new 4-cylinder convertible roadster, the Pontiac Solstice.
“It is becoming more and more difficult to break through the clutter,” Jim Hopson, Pontiac manager of communications, said.
The Apprentice game show takes seemingly average people and places them in a variety of marketing competitions with the winner ‘earning’ a position in Trump’s organization.
Pontiac worked with the television show’s producers in developing a challenge for contestants that would comply with the show’s theme, while simultaneously promoting the Detroit-based car company — and the ploy worked better than Pontiac advertising executives had ever imagined.
“[Contestants] were given the opportunity to look at the new two-seat roadster (Pontiac Solstice) ... and they were given the task of developing an early-order brochure,” Hopson said.
The Apprentice episodes were recorded far enough in advance that Pontiac had the opportunity to peruse the brochures before the show was televised.
“The [winning team] was so good, that we actually produced the brochure,” Hopson said.
The episode highlighting the brochure was televised on Thursday, April 14.
“Customers could go online [that night] and register for the opportunity to buy one of these cars,” Hopson said.
After getting a registration number online, customers could take it to a local Pontiac dealer the next day and get online again to try and buy one of 1,000 limited-edition Solstices.
“At 2 p.m. (Friday), we opened up our nationwide ordering system,” Hopson said.
In 41 minutes, Pontiac had sold all 1,000 Solstices.
“It just blew us away,” Hopson said. “In every case, no one had test-driven the car ... and the [cars] had never been in showrooms.”
One of those select 1,000 consumers was Ron Fristoe, a car collector residing in Frederick County.
Fristoe recalls bringing his registration number to Kern Motor Co., at 2110 Valley Ave., the afternoon of Friday, April 15. He and Elizabeth Rutherford, Kern Motor’s Jeep sales manager, sat at a computer (with three other customers holding their registration numbers) frantically trying to access the Web site.
“Of course the site kept coming up ‘server too busy’ so I just had to keep hitting refresh,” Rutherford said. “Finally ... I got through and got Mr. Ron Fristoe’s order number in. There were other people that brought us order numbers for the Solstice, but obviously the demand was so much we were lucky to get one.”
“Mine was the only one that got through,” Fristoe said. “That made me one of the 1,000 cars.”
Each of the 1,000 cars linked to The Apprentice comes with a small plate in the driver’s console that says “Solstice First 1,000” and the vehicle identification number (VIN) reveals the order of its production.
The VIN is inscribed on the dashboard and windows of all cars. Typically, they are for identification purposes and are not sequential.
“I ended up being No. 4,” Fristoe said. “I thought that was pretty neat.”
“That’s very rare,” Hopson said. “It makes it a collectible. ... Those first thousand are very unique and will never be built again.”
“It should bring more resale value, being the No. 4 [Solstice] ever,” Fristoe said. “I’ll hold onto it probably a long time. ... [But] it does make it worth more, whenever I decide to sell it.”
Pontiac says it is limiting production of the Solstice — which was designed to compete directly with the Ford Motor Co.’s Mazda Miata — to between 15,000 and 20,000 vehicles a year.
Largely because of The Apprentice marketing technique, 6,116 Solstice early orders (not including those first 1,000) were taken in the nine days following that Friday — all of them taken before a single Solstice was physically present on a dealer’s showroom floor.
“To have one-third [of the year’s total production] sold in 10 days really blew us away,” Hopson said. “[And] an additional nearly 5,000 have come in since the early-order program ended.”
Solstices are now being seen in the chrome (albeit only in 43 states thus far) because winners like Fristoe have picked up their models.
“We started shipping the first 1,000 vehicles during the first week of August,” Hopson said.
There is a wait for the orders still being taken, and most of those cars won’t arrive before “sometime next year,” Hopson said.
On Aug. 12, Fristoe drove his Solstice from the lots of Kern Motor to his garage in Frederick County, which was already housing about 20 cars.
“My garage looks almost bigger than the house,” he said. “But I keep all my vehicles inside.
“It’s a hobby. ... It excites me every time I get in a car.”
As of Thursday, Fristoe’s Solstice still donned temporary paper tags, but soon those will be replaced with the license plate “Y000004,” in honor of the car’s low production number.
“You do feel like a winner,” he said, despite having to pay $25,000 for his fully-loaded prize. “I got everything but OnStar.”
The base price (before incentives) of the 5-speed, 177-horsepower Pontiac Solstice is $19,995.
“There will be an automatic coming out next spring,” Hopson said.
The success of The Apprentice campaign will further spurn GM executives to think outside the traditional advertising box.
Hopson, while not divulging specific plans, said the car company is continually working out advertising “mechanisms you wouldn’t normally think about.”
“We’ve got some ideas in mind,” he said.
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