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DETROIT — General Motors Corp. is beefing up its 24-hour test drive program with a $250 giveaway starting Tuesday in an effort to prevent customer defections and court new buyers.

Consumers who take a 24-hour test drive at a GM dealership through July 6 will be paid $250 if they decide to buy a competitors’ vehicle by the end of July.

“This is a big risk for us,” said Bill Mistele, director of retail strategy for GM. “But if you’ve got a customer that has been with a non-GM manufacturer for a long time, even if they come in to get the $250, they’re going to at least see what GM has to offer.”

Dealers have mixed views of the promotion.

“It’s a dumb idea,” said Steve Cook, owner of Cook GM Super Store, a Pontiac-Buick-Chevrolet-Oldsmobile dealership in Vassar. “A program like that is usually taken advantage of by people looking for the money.”

But Mark Pawelski, sales manager at **** Genthe Chevrolet in Southgate, said the promotion could do some good.

“I have a feeling it will drive people in here that might not normally come in here,” said Pawelski. “It may give us a shot and maybe we’ll catch a few extra sales.”

GM kicked off the 24-hour test drive program in April 2003 hoping to attract new customers who have abandoned the automaker’s lineup. GM was convinced recent quality and style improvements would draw new buyers. The automaker’s share of the U.S. market — once as high as 50 percent — has stabilized at 27 percent but remains under pressure.

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