General Motors is happy that Tiger Woods is signed on to pitch Buick for the next five years, but GM chairman Rick Wagoner reportedly said the automaker could make better use of the world’s best-known golfer.

“I think he’s a great strategic asset for the company,” Wagoner told the Associated Press (AP) on Tuesday as Woods and the rest of the US team prepared for the Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills. “We need to use him better.”

Buick officials said that’s just what they plan to do, AP added.

Wagoner reportedly said he liked last year’s “Tiger Trap” promotion, which featured four amateur golfers trying to win a closest-to-the-hole competition for a new Buick Rainier sport utility vehicle – with Woods watching.

Buick used candid footage from the competition in its television and web campaigns for the Rainier’s launch, AP said. It marked Buick’s biggest marketing effort to date with Woods.

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“I thought that was a great use of him,” Wagoner told the news agency. “Some of the other stuff probably has been a little more mixed, to be honest.”

Buick spokesman John Wray on Wednesday told the Associated Press that US television viewers can expect to see Woods “in a different way” in upcoming advertisements. Woods no longer will be paired with legendary GM designer Harley Earl, who died in 1969. GM said last month that Earl – played by actor John Diehl in the commercials – has been scrapped for a more product-focused theme.

AP said Buick’s latest advertising will debut on Sunday on ABC’s Emmy Awards telecast, supporting the launch of the 2005 Buick LaCrosse, a premium midsize sedan.

Wray told AP that Woods will appear in new ads later this year that will offer a contrast to Woods’ serious side on the golf course. “When you bring Tiger and Buick together, you have an opportunity to show the lighter side of both,” Wray said.

AP noted that Woods began representing Buick in 1999 and signed a five-year extension in February believed to be worth $US40 million. Besides the commercials, Woods displays the Buick logo on his golf bag and serves as honorary chairman of the Buick Scramble, the world’s largest amateur tournament.

Buick also is the largest title sponsor on the PGA Tour with four tournaments, the report added.

The Associated Press said Buick is trying to reshape its vehicle lineup with a number of new products such as the LaCrosse, which goes on sale this autumn. The LaCrosse marks a renewed emphasis on cars at Buick, the 100-year-old brand that made its name producing reliable passenger cars, particularly for the older set.

Much of Buick’s focus in the past few years has been on truck-based vehicles, namely the Rainier and Rendezvous sport utility vehicles and the Terraza crossover sports van coming later this year. The 2002 Rendezvous was Buick’s first truck in 80 years, the report noted.

AP added that GM officials have said the brand’s future lineup – forecast to be split evenly between cars and truck-based models – could include a new full-size sedan, a rear-wheel-drive flagship sedan and a convertible.

Buick saw its U.S. sales slip 22% in 2003, including a 30% drop in car business. To the end of August 2004, Buick’s US sales were down 4.1%, the Associated Press said.