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Holden announces 24-hour test drive program


Holden is going to extra-ordinary lengths to get buyers back into showrooms as it prepares to shut its local car factory.

Holden will hand car keys to thousands of prospective buyers as part of a landmark "24-hour test drive" in an attempt to reverse its lowest sales in 23 years.

The bold plan to offer extended test drives of anything in the range - from the $14,990 Spark hatchback to the $96,000 supercharged HSV GTS sedan - follows Ford's recent promotion, which dared to pay customers $200 if they bought a competitor's car after taking a Ford for a lap around the block.

Both Ford and Holden - which dominated car sales in Australia for decades but are now outside the Top Three sellers - are struggling with the transition from manufacturing vehicles to becoming importers.

Ford is due to shut its Broadmeadows car assembly line and Geelong engine and stamping plant on October 7, while Holden will end production of its Cruze small car on the same day - before the homegrown Commodore reaches the end of the line late next year.

Holden says the "take your time test drive" is designed to take the stress out of what is normally a short lap around the block with a salesperson.

As part of the 24-hour test drive program, Holden will introduce five new models over the next five months - including a new generation Holden Astra - as it freshens up what is the oldest line-up among the Top 10 car companies.

However, anyone wanting to rort the system and drive a free Holden for a day may be in for a shock.

Holden is taking steps to ensure only genuine buyers get behind the wheel for extended loans.

"There are many ways that customers could potentially … abuse the system (but) we want to start from the premise that the majority of customers will do the right thing," said Holden's executive director of customer experience, Peter Jamieson.

While the offer is available to "every customer on any vehicle in our range, subject to availability", he said there will also be "an assessment in the dealership to ensure the customer is ... legitimate".

Holden says the "take your time test drive" is designed to take the stress out of what is normally a short lap around the block with a salesperson.

"Our customers have told us the whole idea of taking a test drive is sort of funnelling them into a purchase process that feels at times a little pressured," said Mr Jamieson. "So what we're trying to do is take away that sense of resistance and reluctance to drive … our vehicles."

When asked if Holden would match Ford's recent $200 test drive offer, Mr Jamieson said: "That's their call, what they choose to do. We think this is the thing that most fits us. This is part of our transformation."

When News Corp Australia asked Ford if it planned to revive its landmark $200 test drive challenge, spokesman Wes Sherwood said: "It worked for what we needed at the time, but we've since shifted to a much broader advertising campaign, which is focused on a fresh new look."

Would you take Holden up on their 24-hour test drive? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

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