Friday, November 17, 2006

Pontiac buys into fantasy Internet

Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Pontiac buys into fantasy Internet
Automaker links up with 'Second Life,' where it will create a virtual auto culture.
Anita Lienert / Special to The Detroit News

In its search for the next big thing on the Internet, Pontiac has settled on a place called "Second Life," where it hopes consumers will spend a lot of time creating a fantasy automotive community.

Starting this month, the automaker will have a major presence on Second Life, an online 3-D world that has been described by Popular Science magazine as "an animated version of real life."

Participants create an avatar, an idealized version of themselves right down to skin color and torso shape, and take part in an elaborate make-believe society that even has its own currency -- and now, its own car culture.

Pontiac will debut a virtual place called Motorati Island where consumers can "create a vibrant car culture within the community," General Motors Corp. says. The automaker is giving away free land on Second Life, thus saving you monthly fees on the site that range from approximately $5 to $195 per month.

To get in on the deal, you have to submit proposals for land use to Pontiac will review the proposals and choose the best ones.

Motorati Island will eventually have a futuristic Pontiac dealership that sells customizable versions of the Solstice GXP. Pontiac envisions weekly competitive driving events, drive-in theaters playing car-related films and car-themed fashion shows.

So realistic is this project that I assumed you could buy a real Solstice GXP on the site, but you can't. Pontiac spokesman Jim Hopson said the idea isn't "to replace the dealership experience."

But Pontiac is interested in Second Life because Hopson said some pundits are predicting it will become the next My Space, one of the hottest Internet destinations.

My initial reaction to the Pontiac project was one of skepticism. It's hard enough to manage one real life and one or two cars, after all. But designing a brave new automotive world does have some attraction.

My Motorati Island fantasy would include minivans with onboard toilets, dealerships that respect women buyers and standard, state-of-the-art safety equipment on even the humblest vehicle.

Pontiac may be on the right track with this idea, after all.

You can reach Anita Lienert at

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