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The situation is somewhat ameliorated, however, by the fact that a very large portion of them have been put to work in the marketing departments of automobile companies and their advertising agencies.

Would you like something to support this assertion? Well, consider the letter I received a few days ago from the Chrysler Corp. The return address identifies the sender as the Chrysler Corporation (large print) and Spitzer Authorized Dealer (in a type size requiring a magnifying glass to read). The envelope also carries the words " Important Document Enclosed" and "Immediate Attention Required." Wording like that on the envelope is apparently designed to convince me that the contents do not contain junk mail. (Duh!) The envelope also carries a squiggly-line pattern to make me think the contents are so confidential they shouldn't be read by holding the envelope up to the light. These guys think of everything.

The letter says that my local Dodge dealer has been designated as "a site to conduct a special market test pricing and financing event." My status as the driver of either a Chrysler, Dodge, or Plymouth qualifies me for this private sale. The letter then goes on to say that my dealer desperately needs to acquire several preowned Dodges, Chryslers, and Plymouths to fulfill special vehicle requests. I have charitably left out the apostrophes that incorrectly turned the product names into the possessive form in the letter.

The letter says I have been identified as an owner of either a "1994-2002 Dodge, Chrysler, or Plymouth." And the dealer's new car manager has been authorized to buy back my vehicle at above-market prices. Or more precisely, the dealer wants to "exchange" my vehicle for any new Dodge he has on the lot. Note that the search for desperately needed used vehicles encompasses every Chrylser Corp. product built for almost a decade. (Duh again!)

Now let's see if I am reading this correctly. With dealer lots so choked with used cars that they are almost ready to send them directly to car crushers at salvage yards, this dealer still wants to buy mine. (Duh yet again!)

But wait! The dealer says that with factory incentives, low interest rates, and high trade-in values, he is confident he can make the "exchange" with little or no money down and a monthly payment that fits my budget. (And another Duh!) Mr. Dealer, if you want to "exchange" my vehicle for a new one, why would I end up owing you money? Do you get the idea by now that this letter was written by an idiot to be read by idiots?

Be assured that the dealer is not going to let just anybody into this amazing special market test pricing and financing event. You must produce one of the letters to be admitted.

I would like to have sat in on the meeting when it was decided to send out this letter. The instructions from the boss to a marketing minion must have been something like this. "Write a letter that assumes a reader with the lowest possible intelligence. Assume this person never before has received junk mail with an envelope telling him something important is enclosed. Don't worry about the bulk-mail postage permit. Really stupid people won't notice that."

So what's my gripe? People selling cars should use some semblance of a rational appeal, and the person making the sales pitch should not treat the potential customer like an imbecile. The invitation to the "special market test pricing and financing event" is clearly written in a way that insults the intelligence of the recipient. If anything, the letter reveals just how glutted the automotive market is and how desperate auto dealers are. May I humbly suggest that if the domestic automobile industry is reduced to sending out letters like this one, maybe it's time for import quotas.

-- Ronald Khol, Editor
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