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FORT WALTON BEACH, Fla. — A Chevrolet dealer along Northwest Florida's Gulf Coast took a gamble when he brought in 10 new-vehicle models from rivals Toyota, Honda, Ford and Dodge for shoppers to test-drive and compare to his own offering. 

But it seems to be paying off for Taylor Hood and Preston Hood Chevrolet, which posted a 45-percent year-over-year gain in new-vehicle unit sales during the second quarter and a 43-percent sequential uptick.

As far as the origin of the DareToCompare.com campaign, Hood — the store's general manager — wanted a way to prove to shoppers that his automaker's vehicles were stronger than rivals from other brands.

The store had originally rented 10 of its competitors' vehicles for a one-day event for consumers to test drive.

However, the dealership felt they had found a "permanent solution" when shopper traffic for the event (which was a held on a Saturday) saw a 450-percent increase as compared to a normal Saturday for the season. So, the dealership decided to purchase the vehicles and keep the promotion going. 

As it stands right now, the program's length is indefinite.

Alan Batey, vice president of sales and service for Chevrolet in the U.S., gave the campaign some kudos when the division held its five-city corporate meetings recently, as hundreds of dealers discovered what the promotion was all about as well as its benefits.

"Preston Hood Chevrolet's Dare to Compare program was born out of an excitement to impart to consumers that our products — in quality, design, performance, fuel efficiency and more — truly outpace the competition," stated Garret Dvorsky, Southeast regional sales and marketing executive for Chevrolet.

"Last year, GM launched a campaign called May the Best Car Win, because we are so confident in our vehicles that we knew if you tested them against competitive models, that we'd win every time," he continued. "The sales peaks that Preston Hood is experiencing is proof-positive of growing consumer attraction to Chevrolet products."

Hood added: "Providing an on-site, side-by-side driving experience, along with a supporting website, was our way of making sure no question about our product by our customers — and our sales team — went unanswered."

"But on a broader scope, we were at a point where we knew we needed to do something different, something we had not seen before in our industry, to generate business, and DareToCompareChevy.com was the answer," he noted.

"Like so many other independent businesses, we are dealing with the effects of the economic issues, not to mention the regional impact from the Gulf oil spill. But these challenges have, in turn, made us discover ways a small business can not only survive, but work toward becoming a success story," Hood concluded.