General Motors Europe is spending €41 million on its most ambitious test-drive programme to date, a top company executive revealed.

Jonathan Browning, GM Europe's vice president of sales, marketing and aftersales, disclosed the cost to Automotive News Europe.

Browning said small incremental marketing campaigns cannot get customers interested in a brand's vehicles. The mantra at GM Europe is "Go big or go home," he said.

Under its Million Mile Test Drive programme GM Europe is offering consumers in 39 European markets the chance to test drive an Opel model for three days.

Vauxhall, Opel's sister brand in the UK, also is taking part in the programme, increasing the total numbers of participating countries to 40.

GM Europe needs a major marketing effort to overcome Opel's poor brand image. In recent years, the German brand has refreshed its line-up with cars such as the new Astra, launched in March 2004, that have won acclaim from critics. But the public - especially Opel's home market - still has not got the message.

Alain Visser, Opel/Vauxhall's marketing director, said the programme has the potential to attract 1 million participants. To meet the high demand, he said GM Europe could add 5,000 cars to the fleet of 40,000 already available for test drives. Opel expected 500,000 consumers to take test drives and calculated they would drive a million miles (1.7 million kilometres).