DETROIT – General Motors Corp. predicts the "1-2-3" incentive program introduced this week will be the most cost-efficient and effective of its recent incentive offerings.

The expired "Keep America Rolling" and "Overdrive" campaigns over the past several months blanketed GM’s North American lineup with 0% financing and $2,002 customer cash. Although the programs were successful and established the trend at GM to national rather than regional spiffs, GM says 1-2-3 allows it to better tailor incentives for individual models.

The 1-2-3 program, scheduled to run through July 1, offers $1,000, $2,000 or $3,000 customer cash or financing rates of 1.9/2.9/3.9% (36/48/60 months) to qualified buyers of ’02 models. The size of the incentive available depends on the model. Saturn, Saab and Hummer are excluded.

"We think (1-2-3) may strike a better balance between the goal of having an effective marketing program – and we believe simple and compelling are vital elements to that – vs. making sure it’s also efficient," Paul Ballew, GM director-market and industry analysis, says during a media conference reviewing March sales.

Slapping $2,000 on the hood of every vehicle is an incentive that’s easy for consumers to understand but not necessarily the most profitable, he says, adding not every model needs the same level of discount to spark sales.

"What we’ve tried to do with 1-2-3 is still keep it very simple, make it a compelling offer to drive traffic into the showroom. But at the same time it has a little bit of a discriminant element to it," Ballew says. "You’re trying to find the right balance – you probably don’t need $2,000 (incentives) on mid-utilities."

Buick Rendezvous

With 1-2-3, GM’s midsize SUVs offer $1,000 customer cash, while vehicles in need of more incentives, such as Chevy S-10, Pontiac Bonneville and Buick LeSabre are getting $3,000 discounts. Some vehicles that are surprisingly offering more than the minimum $1,000 are: Buick Rendezvous, Cadillac Escalade EXT and Chevy Avalanche, all at $2,000.

"Each product has its unique circumstances," explains Ballew. "One of the issues on fullsize pickups and SUVs is it’s not an issue of us being overly aggressive – our competitors are running incentive levels substantially above ours. We thought long and hard about the vehicles we put in each category. When you look at what vehicles end up in $3,000, $2,000 and $1,000, I’m very comfortable with it."

When 1-2-3 wraps up in two months, expect another mammoth incentive program. "Philosophically, we will stay simple," says Ballew. "We will stay compelling. We’ll have some nuances thrown in. It won’t be identical to this program. But directionally this is where we’re at."