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Unique Car Buying Concept Fuels Dodge Dart Marketing Effort

Need a new car?  Here’s an idea: ask your friends and family to buy you one.  If you think this is a ridiculous idea – unless your friends and family include the very, very rich – you haven’t heard about the latest craze in car-buying. 

Think of it this way:  take the concept of a bridal gift registry where the bride and groom pick out a china pattern and post it on a store’s online site. Friends and family can purchase individual pieces - say a dinner plate or a gravy boat - as a wedding gift.  Now apply this gift registry concept to a car.  Specifically, a new Dodge Dart.  Instead of buying a dinner plate or a gravy boat, friends and family will purchase a steering wheel or an air bag. 

From a marketing standpoint, it’s a unique idea for selling cars to people who don’t want to – or can’t – pay for them. According to the Dodge Dart Registry, getting your spanking new car is simple.  The site reads: “Pick out the features you want in your new Dart and then invite friends and family to sponsor individual parts of the car.”  If you’re very, very lucky, you’ll find sponsors for the entire vehicle.  If not, you’ll just get other people to pay for part of the car and you’ll have to find a way to pay for the rest yourself.

According to a quote in Time Business & Money from Oliver Francois, Chief Marketing Officer for Chrysler, “The registry is designed to make the process of configuring and buying a new Dart more social than ever, in a way that has never been done before.”

The concept of asking for money online is also called ‘crowd funding’ and usually applies to gaining investors for business or charities. It especially appeals to younger consumers, who are especially savvy when it comes to networking online, even if it essentially amounts to begging for money.

Setting up a registry for the Dodge Dart is relatively simple. The first step involves creating your profile on the registry. Then you customize your hoped-for 2013 Dodge Dart with various amenities, including custom wheels or dual exhaust. Other options include twelve exterior colors, fourteen interior color and trim options, three engine types, three types of transmissions, and various safety options. Then, post links to your registry on your facebook page, twitter, etc. and wait for the donations to come rolling in. Or not.

In looking over the registrants on the Dart fundraising site, one person says he needs a car to make the rounds of job interviews.  Another is a fraternity that plans on donating the car to charity.  A young woman registrant is a college student who needs the car to get to her waitressing job and eventually to her teaching job when she graduates. Of these three registrants, the fraternity donating the car to charity has the most donations at $2,200.  The other two have raised less than $200.

The FAQ section of the registry site contains some important fine print. The most significant is that 9% of the money raised is deducted for various fees.  The maximum time allotment for the registry is 90 days. At the end of the registry period, registrants get a check from Chrysler, minus the 9% fee, after which, they can buy a car – or not. There’s no requirement that they use the money to buy a Dart, or any car for that matter, which is something that contributors may or may not understand.  They might think they’re donating for a car, but the money could end up paying for beer and pizza at a local college hangout.

So if people don’t have to buy the Dart, how does that help the company sell more cars?  According to Forbes,, the intent of the registry might be more to create buzz, than to improve sales.  In that case, it might be one of the more innovative marketing efforts in recent times. Whether it works to boost interest – and sales – of the Dodge Dart remains to be seen.  If it does result in skyrocketing sales of the car, plan on seeing other companies follow in their footsteps.