General Motors Corp. is allocating the majority of initial Pontiac Aztek production for the West Coast and South/Central regions of the U.S., where the automaker badly wants to make a statement with hip and active Gen Xers.

Of the 4,500 built, 800 have been sent to dealerships, including 400 to West Coast retail locations. Another 200 have been shipped from the Aztek assembly plant in Ramos Arizpe, Mexico, to the southern Sun Belt states. Meanwhile, the North Central region, GM's home turf, “has seen only a few vehicles,” reports Mary O'Connor, Aztek assistant brand manager.

To make sure its arrival doesn't go unnoticed — not that the wildly styled crossover needs help turning heads — Aztek is using some unique marketing tools. Pontiac has loaned Azteks to the captain of the U.S. wakeboard team, two actors and the producer of the popular TV series “Survivor” to tool around Tinseltown for a couple of months. Another 20 people, chosen from a pool of 1,100 applicants, are driving Azteks for 45 days around the country and filing tour updates. Billboard and print ads in key markets are getting underway with a national marketing campaign set to begin in September. “Azteks will be available at all major dealerships nationwide within a few weeks,” says Ms. O'Connor.

Production is ramping up at Ramos Arizpe. The factory currently makes 150 Azteks daily, according to Aztek Vehicle Line Executive Mark L. Reuss. Eventually, Aztek output will hit 32 an hour.

Pontiac believes most Aztek sales will be to 20- to 40-year-olds. But Ms. O'Connor notes one of the first deliveries was to a couple in their 50s who were going to buy a Jeep Cherokee before spotting an Aztek on a dealer lot in California. Appeal could broaden when Versatrak all-wheel drive is made available next year. However, Ms. O'Connor isn't willing to revise the current yearly sales forecast of 75,000 units. Mr. Reuss reports Ramos Arizpe is on schedule to begin building awd versions in “a couple of months.”

The plant also builds the Cavalier/Sunfire and Opel Corsa-based cars. It will add Buick Rendezvous production later this year. “The tool sets are in the plant right now,” says Mr. Reuss. “We haven't built any Rendezvous at the plant yet. But the tool sets are being readied for a first quarter (2001) start up. And we'll start running bodies through by the end of the year.”