September 14, 2004 -- OPRAH Winfrey shocked her studio audience yesterday by giving all 276 of them a spanking-new Pontiac G6 car a jaw-dropping deal valued at over $7 million.
The G6s, which are new models, were donated by Pontiac and retail for roughly $25,000 apiece.
Pontiac also picked up taxes, registration and title licensing fees and will customize the cars up to $28,000 meaning all the lucky "Oprah" winners have to do is pay for insurance.
A svelte Winfrey opened yesterday's show by giving 11 audience members the new cars as part of the show's "Wildest Dreams Come True" theme.
But she then distributed boxes to the rest of the audience with each box containing a set of car keys.
The announcement created mass hysteria as the women in the audience screamed and Oprah jumped up and down shouting "Everybody gets a car! Everybody gets a car! Everybody gets a car!"
She then led the audience outside to a slew of G6s adorned with ribbons (these weren't the cars given out).
Mary Kubitskey, Pontiac's advertising manager, said the company approached Winfrey about eight months ago when it was thinking how it could launch the new G6 model on a massive scale.
"We've never done anything on this scale it's a first for us," said Kubitskey.
"We needed to launch the G6 in a big way and we had to find a way to break through in the market and get noticed.
"We were all sitting around and thinking of who the No. 1 influence among our consumers would be and it was Oprah."
"It's a brilliant move on Pontiac's part," said industry analyst Bill Carroll of Katz Media. "They've gotten terrific publicity and an association with Oprah Winfrey.
"Since Oprah's never endorsed anything . . . you certainly have to look at this as a de facto indication that she believes [the cars] have value."
Pontiac's Kubitskey said the "Oprah" audience members have until the end of February to place their orders and can customize their cars with a sunroof, heated leather seats and XM satellite radio, among other options.
Yesterday's show was the biggest giveaway in "Oprah" history and that's saying a lot, since Winfrey has lavished exotic prizes on her audience for years.
She's taken entire audiences to Disney World and to the Bahamas, and last November showered her audience with $1.5 million in holiday gifts.