Car dealers want to end December with a bang
By David Sharos For The Sun December 15, 2011 7:22PM
Chevy trucks and SUVs sit on the lot of Dan Wolf Chevrolet of Naperville on Wednesday. Jeff Cagle / For Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 17, 2012 8:28AM
In the automotive world, the end of another calendar year means much more than celebrating with family and enjoying a few days off from work.
The last weeks in December are always when dealers look to clean out inventory, as manufacturers offer incentives and close out deals which can mean huge savings for consumers.
The size and scope of these year-end offers largely depend on sales performance generated throughout the year and the amount of inventory left over.
Naperville dealers like Chevrolet of Naperville general sales manager Wayne Michor said the dealership will realize more than a 40 percent bump in sales this year, thanks to sales of models like the Chevy Cruze and Equinox.
“It’s been a tremendous year, but it’s still going to be a war in the last few days of December as well as next year in terms of everyone vying for their share of the market,” Michor predicted. “Deals at this time of year are based on supply and demand. We have a lot of deals on GM trucks with up to $5,000 rebates and 0 percent interest for 72 months. There are also rebates on Impalas and Malibu, but you won’t find deals on the Cruze or Equinox. We’ll been able to sell them all year without any incentives or rebates.”
Michor said “the right car, being offered at the right time and the right price” explains why certain models are never available at the end of the year.
Jim Whitgrove, general manager for Gartner Hyundai/Saab in Aurora, finds himself in the enviable position of having about 100 Sonatas in stock as of mid-December, one of the more popular models bearing the Hyundai nameplate. Whitgrove said used car sales were up about 5 percent this year and new car sales about 11 percent.
“There is another $500 incentive on the Sonatas and for the first time, we actually have some inventory where people can see the cars and drive them home,” he said. “Lease programs are coming back big again, which has been another good market area for us. We’re certainly getting ready for a big end-of-the-year push.”
Whitgrove notes that traditionally, “December is just an average sales month” but that the week between Christmas and New Year “is one of the biggest of the year.”
“There will be a big war out there for business,” Whitgrove predicts. “You’ll see a lot of advertising dollars being pumped into the system as everyone is fighting to get his share.”
Joel Weinberger, owner of Continental Mazda, Audi, and Acura of Naperville dealerships said buyers should expect dealers “to be very aggressive once customers hit the sales floor the week after Christmas.”
“If I had to throw a dart at it, I’d say our business, overall, is up about 15 percent this year and we’re very happy about that,” Weinberger said. “I actually think December is one of the stronger months, it’s probably number three, and that week after Christmas is huge. With our brands, there were some supply problems earlier in the year because of the tsunami in Japan and also some flooding in Thailand that effected supplies of electronic components. Manufacturers still have sales targets they want to hit, and they are throwing everything they’ve got to make those goals.”
Sam Santoro, used car sales manager at Fair Oaks Ford in Naperville, said deals including $2,500 to $3,000 rebates and 0 percent financing on certain models will likely entice buyers to take home a Ford before the end of the year. Overall volume of leftover new cars is likely to be less this year, Santoro predicts, based on some industry decisions and market factors that emerged months ago.
“Overall production was cut back by the manufacturers earlier in the year and so there aren’t as many cars being rammed down the dealer’s throat,” he said. “Those adjustments, plus the terminating of name plates like ‘Mercury’ for Ford and ‘Pontiac” for GM means there is less inventory in some cases. As far as getting a good deal right now, customers have been doing well for a long time. Thanks to the Internet and the information out there, people are a lot more educated.”
General manager Sam Guzzino of Naperville Jeep/Dodge in Lisle said sales at the dealership have jumped more than 50 percent over a year ago and that the best deal buyers will find is 0 percent financing for 72 months. Inventory, he said, “is fairly consistent with what we’ve had in years past.”
“I think the number of vehicles left is more a reflection of a good sales year than production being scaled back,” Guzzino said. “We’re planning for a real big finish.”