He's No Movie Star, But Repo Man Dan Has a Following

Repo Man, a 1984 film directed by former repo man Alex Cox, has become one of the top 10 cult movies, according to several such lists. It's the tale of a supermarket clerk who takes a job repossessing cars when owners fall far behind on payments. The film's popularity evidently comes from running sight gags, recreational drug use and hard-rock music. In other words, not the kind of movie that parents

“Repo Man,” a 1984 film directed by former repo man Alex Cox, has become one of the top 10 cult movies, according to several such lists.

It's the tale of a supermarket clerk who takes a job repossessing cars when owners fall far behind on payments.

The film's popularity evidently comes from running sight gags, recreational drug use and hard-rock music. In other words, not the kind of movie that parents want their kids to see, which of course, is why they saw it and elevated it to cult status.

Now, 25 years later, it has inspired Force Marketing, an Atlanta ad agency specializing in auto-dealer support services, to build a promotion package around the title “Dan the Repo Man.”

The marketing concept has been sold to dealers around the country. A big, colorful ad for Brandon AutoMall in the Tampa (FL) Tribune caught my eye.

It was headlined “Dan the Repo Man Sale/The Largest Repo Sale in Hillsborough History!”

It promised “repos, lease release, pre-auction vehicles, demos and more,” ranging from $3,973 for an '03 Ford Windstar to $36,783 for an '07 BMW 7-Series. The ad touted Brandon Automall's relationships with 12 lenders offering $21 million in credit lines.

In a retail automotive market that seemed dead on arrival by late December, the Repo promotion worked wonders, Alex Alvarado, Brandon's general manager, tells Ward's.

The dealership sold a remarkable 73 cars in four days in December, he says. “An extremely good sale.”

I had called the store naively expecting to talk to a real car salesman named Dan the Repo Man.

“Not here,” Alvarado admits.

He credits the ad agency with the moniker and the colorful promotion that goes with it. He stocked up for the sale at a local auto auction.

Jim Fitzpatrick, president of Force Marketing and a 25-year Toyota sales veteran, says the promotion had been launched in the fall, about the time the bottom began falling out of auto sales, especially for new vehicles.

“Repos are at an all-time high,” he says. “There are elements out there that perceive these events are a great opportunity for a good deal.”

Dealers signing on “have to agree the inventory includes real repos,” he says.

Force Marketing serves “hundreds of dealers around the country,” though not all go for the repo package, which includes advertising, point-of-purchase items and sales-event staffing, Fitzpatrick says.

Dick Dolan, a principal in the Hazelwood Auto Group of Bremerton, WA, says the DanTheRepoMan package had “worked real good” for his organization's new-car franchises of Chrysler-Jeep, General Motor multi-line, Honda and Toyota.

Meantime, there are a few encouraging reports that the used-car market is strengthening. The auto industry hopes that might be a harbinger of the traditional spring upturn in the car business.

In any event, DanTheRepoMan proves an off-beat promotion can shake the doldrums.

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