Originally created 04/10/98

Cadillac to give long test drives



NEW YORK -- Some people who want to take a Caddy for a test drive in two American cities may get a bonus -- they can keep the car up to two days.

Cadillac said Thursday it will allow the longer test drives for selected customers in Atlanta and Cincinnati starting in May under a pilot program that will run through September. Typically, test drives last no more than an hour -- and under the watchful eye of a car salesman.

"The emphasis is on time, place and convenience," Cadillac General Manager John Smith said of the new service program.

Mr. Smith said it marks the first time an automaker has offered such a convenience. He said the General Motors Corp. division may expand part or all of the program to other dealerships if the pilot is successful.

Cadillac customers also will be able to buy new cars from their homes or offices and have them picked up from work or at home for repairs and returned.

In other events at the press preview of the New York auto show:

-- Ford Motor Co. and New York Gov. George Pataki said the number of low-pollution, natural gas taxicabs in New York may quadruple under a cash-incentive program to encourage new sales or the conversions of gasoline-powered cars.

About 150 of the 12,000 cabs already on New York streets are natural gas vehicles. The state and Ford are hoping to add up to 600 with the incentive program.

-- Hyundai showed off a prototype for the likely replacement of its Sonata midsize sedan.

Called the Avatar, the car is more bold and luxurious than typical midsize sedans, the Korean automaker said.

The Sonata's replacement will be out in the fall. The Sonata sold 22,000 in 1997 and was Hyundai's third-best selling vehicle.

-- Isuzu unveiled the hard-top version of its mini-sport utility vehicle called the Amigo.

The SUV, which has removable sun roofs in the front and back, will be in showrooms by fall. Isuzu said hard-top versions will account for 25 percent to 35 percent of the roughly 25,000 Amigos it expects to sell in 1999.

-- Mitsubishi showed off a concept roadster called the SST Spyder, parts of which could show up in future Mitsubishi products, the automaker said. The sleek car with big tires has a "geo-mechanical" theme that the automaker said incorporates elements from classic architecture, high-speed trains and even the flexed human bicep.

The auto show opens to the public Saturday and runs through April 19.