A trifle redfaced but declaring $4.1 million worth of success, General Motors Corp. this week said it was taking its unique "buy a house, get a car" sales promotion from Detoit to the New York metropolitan area.
GM managed to unload 46 executive houses here in five weeks by offering to throw in a new car as part of the deal. The trouble was, not one buyer took a car.
Instead, every buyer elected to deduct the value of the cars from the asking prices on the $57,000-to-$205,000 Detroit area houses.
GM, reacting quickly to the inevitable suggestion that it can't even give cars away these days, said the point of the exercise was to sell houses, not unload cars.
"In that respect, it was a tremendous success," GM spokesman Donald Postma said. "But we were a little surprised that nobody took a car."
The auto company launched the program in late September to attack an increasingly costly problem: a backlog of about 500 homes it had bought from transferred executives but had been unable to resell because of the slumping housing market.
The sales scheme was tried in only the Detroit area, where GM's real estate group was saddled with 112 homes.
The company held openhouses and parked shiny new GM cars in the driveways. The sticker prices averaged 8 to 10 percent of the prices on the homes. The program was promoted heavily by GM and was covered widely in newspapers and on television.
There was some grumbling among local Realtors because, in most cases, GM paid them only half the going 6 percent sales commission and kept the rest to cover the cost of promoting the program.
But it clearly pumped a little excitement into Detroit's real estate market. GM says the 46 home sales in five weeks, which cleared the decks of $4.1 million worth of housing, -increased by five-fold the area's housing sales total for the preceding five weeks.
"It sure as the devil got a lot of people interested and it was something connected with the cars," Postma said.
"There were a lot of questions about the cars, but when they got to the bottom line, the people wanted to reduce the amount of their mortgages."
He said GM will offer cars with 29 of the 42 houses it has on the market in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. The offer will end Dec. 13.