Suzuki heads for the mountains in SUV push

BREA, CA: To build buzz for its current Grand Vitara SUV and generate ideas for vehicle enhancements, American Suzuki Motor Corporation (ASMC) is partnering with ski and snowboard brand Elan/Dolomite.

BREA, CA: To build buzz for its current Grand Vitara SUV and generate ideas for vehicle enhancements, American Suzuki Motor Corporation (ASMC) is partnering with ski and snowboard brand Elan/Dolomite.

Suzuki is sponsoring five amateur Halfpipe Jams, mountain-sports competitions where it can target its core consumers - "young-at-heart, active life enthusiasts," said Ben Hilverda, marcomms manager for ASMC.

The centerpiece attraction is a Suzuki Blizzard SUV positioned at the base of the chair lifts, he said. Accessible to contestants and onlookers, the tricked-out Grand Vitara concept activity vehicle has enthusiast extras like rooftop snowboard pods and an iPod-equipped back gate.

Elan/Dolomite reps are available to answer questions about the Blizzard, Hilverda said. And a brief questionnaire created by Suzuki and its ad agency, Santa Monica, CA-based Colby & Partners, is available.

"Reaction has been phenomenal," Hilverda noted.

Next year is too soon to see Blizzard-inspired components added to the Grand Vitara, Hilverda noted, but consumer input gathered now will be valuable in building special-edition models for 2008 and beyond.

The Halfpipe Jams program is one of several crafted by Suzuki, Colby, and the automaker's Irvine, CA-based AOR Paine PR to showcase its SUVs. The Blizzard will also appear at traditional venues, said Hilverda, like auto shows and dealerships.

PR efforts, led by Paine, Skiing magazine, and Mountain Sports Media, include print- and photo- oriented outreach toward local, auto, and business media.

According to Hilverda, ASMC expects 5,000 to 10,000 consumers to be exposed to the Grand Vitara at the five Halfpipe Jams events alone. Held at resorts in Colorado, Vermont, Maine, Utah, and California, they are scheduled to run through April 15.

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