Austin, TX - It was a busy Friday in Austin. Texas' high school basketball playoffs were taking place on the university campus, while some 5,000 teachers were headed to the state capital, protesting proposed budget cuts (shades of Madison, Wisconsin) to school funding. Of more interest to us, some thirty examples of the Chevy Cruze were navigating the downtown district, offering free shuttle service to attendees of Austin's seminal festival of music, film and social media, SXSW (South By Southwest). Given the recent emphasis on social media - and its practitioners - by most in automotive marketing, Chevy's presence (and sponsorship) shouldn't come as a surprise. That their team was doing it with such enthusiasm celebrates not only a renaissance of the brand, but a wholesale rebirth of the team behind it.

Beyond the Cruze shuttles were ten teams (four per team) of Cruze-equipped bloggers converging on Austin from ten different regions of the U.S. and Canada (even Omaha was represented). Equipped - natch - with GM's OnStar Directions and Connections service, a mobile phone loaded with OnStar's mobile apps and Autonet Wi-Fi for passengers, the teams are dispatched to document their travels (for the Omaha team, that would be Kansas and Oklahoma...) and report on their various 'good deeds' while en route. Those good deeds included raising money for Adopt-A-Classroom ( through their social media outreach.

In Austin to assist with the communication were three of GM's big hitters, including Chris Perry - Vice President of U.S. marketing; Nick Pudar, Vice President of Planning and Business Development for OnStar; and Lisa Hutchinson, Marketing Director for the Chevrolet Cruze. That a trio of GM's most prominent execs would take a weekend to land in Central Texas speaks volumes to the importance - in the view of the General - of reaching the young, tech-savvy demographic - some 11,000 of them - that were on hand for SXSW's social media weekend.

Of course, when selling cars it's more than just the software and latest app. To that end, there was the Volt Lounge, giving attendees a chance to recharge with both power outlets and comfortable couches. And Chevy's demo drives were well received, netting handraisers a chance to pilot a Cruze or Camaro (droptop!) on a route more urban than instructive. But given the coastal bias - both northwest and northeast - of many at SXSW, this may have been their first chance to see Chevy's bowtie on something other than a delivery truck.

Finally, if you preferred your updates in static doses, Chevy offered a sidewalk demo of GM's new MyLink, which debuts on a handful of vehicles this year. MyLink is a mobile app that provides remote vehicle connectivity while - hopefully - minimizing driver distraction. Notably, while we observed the MyLink demonstration the test bed vehicle, a Chevy Equinox, was parked.

With the onset of spring and a budding economic recovery, a young man's (or woman's or couple's) fancy often turns to new wheels. With initiatives like this, Chevy might just find itself on more consumer radars, while recognizing that 'radar' is so last century...

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