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DETROIT — Coming to the small screen in June is a big-budget, full-length movie starring Dennis Hopper ... and a passel of Pontiac GTOs.

So much for traditional 30-second or one-minute commercials to sell cars and trucks.

The GTO’s star turn in the film “The Last Ride” is part of a three-month-old effort by General Motors Corp. to rev up marketing at its Pontiac, Buick and GMC brands.

A new team led by advertising wunderkind C.J. Fraleigh is looking to cut through the clutter and highlight vehicle attributes such as power, performance and amenities.

“The marketing will be sharper — some advertising messages will change,” Fraleigh said.

Fraleigh, 40, made his name by helping GM turn around its once-inert Cadillac division. A combination of edgy new products and the use of music by hard rockers Led Zeppelin in commercials has helped convert Cadillac’s image from has-been to hip.

On Feb. 1, Fraleigh moved to Buick and Pontiac-GMC as the division’s general manager. He was joined by Jim Bunnell, 48, a former Pontiac executive who spent the last half decade running GM’s Northeast region.

While GMC’s lineup of pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles is delivering sales and profits, Pontiac remains a work in progress. GM is repositioning the brand to focus on its performance image.

“A couple of times in our history we fell off that path,” Bunnell said. “We’re taking Pontiac back to its roots, its true performance, not only straight line acceleration but great handling and a true driver’s environment.”



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