Rising luxury auto sales a holiday gift
By Rachel Tannenbaum
Luxury auto dealerships and manufacturers are pushing for end-of-year sales that include cars as holiday-season gifts.
"Commercial breaks run about four to five car ads with big bows on them for end-of-the-year sales during the holiday season, which is often pushed by car manufacturers," said Greg Barnes, president of Bill Ussery Motors.
With December its busiest month, Prestige Imports' President Brett David said he notices huge sales for holiday-season gifts. But in the past two to three years, he said, people have realized that it's socially acceptable to take a step back and drive something less flashy.
With sales up 20% to 30% from last year, Mr. David said, red and yellow cars aren't selling as well, although Lamborghinis and Ferraris continue to move.
Total new Lamborghini sales for the 2011 calendar year to date are 290, up 9.8% from 2010, according to motorintelligance.com.
Mr. Barnes and Gary Feil, general manager of Ocean Cadillac, said dealers and manufacturers both push for more sales at year's end, which often fits buyers' schedules.
New Mercedes-Benz sales for the 2011 year to date total 234,473, up 15.2% from the 2010 at this time. New BMW sales for the year to date are 221,073, up 12.3% from this point in 2010.
Mr. Feil said after Thanksgiving and the beginning of December is when 30-year-old Ocean Cadillac is busiest in sales.
"People have more time off during the holidays," Mr. Barnes noted. "They work less, the kids are out of school and they go on vacation."
Mercedes-Benz of Coral Gables will sell about 2,500 new cars this year, of which 70% will be "acquired" via lease and the others via traditional financing or paid for in full, Mr. Barnes said.
"Our two to three busiest months of the year, we will sell 250 to 350 new cars and 60 to 70 pre-owned at Mercedes-Benz Coral Gables," Mr. Barnes said. "We will sell 150 to 175 new and 50 to 60 pre-owned at Mercedes-Benz Cutler Bay."
With Mercedes-Benz Cutler Bay, Coral Gables' sister store, celebrating its third birthday, Mr. Barnes said both locations have been seeing heavy traffic in the past few months.
The Cutler Bay store will sell about 1,400 new vehicles, 70% will be leased, and 450 pre-owned vehicles, he said.
Mr. Barnes said the end of the year means leases are often up, interest rates are low and people are trading in for newer models.
"It's a win-win for both dealers and consumers," Mr. Feil said.
Mr. Barnes said South Florida has a great car market. The 50-year-old dealership has been renovating its showroom and services since June and should be done early in the new year.
"It is a 20-year-old building and we get a lot of traffic in the showroom." Mr. Barnes said "We are doing a floor-to-ceiling renovating operation."
When it comes to seeing sales of cars as holiday-season gifts, all three dealerships see increases. Mr. Barnes said Mercedes-Benz Coral Gables does see people surprising spouses or children with cars, and in the past the dealership has hidden already-purchased cars on site so the surprise isn't spoiled.
"We will hide cars for a few weeks in our garage with a bow in the trunk and a sold sticker in the window. We've had about a couple handfuls of this," Mr. Barnes said. "It's fun for us as well, because it puts a smile on our face knowing that we are part of a secret plan, and it is also nice for our salesmen to interact with customers and ask them what color bow they want."
As for trendy cars, Mr. Feil said Cadillac's is the Escalade. Mr. Barnes said that although there isn't one trend that drives business, he has seen a trend with the Mercedes-Benz SLK and CLS. Mr. David said he's seen a trend among Lamborghinis and Ferraris, but especially among Audis.
New Audi car sales for the calendar year to date total 104,906, up 15% from 2010.
"Audis are one of those trendy vehicles that people are trading in Range Rover for," Mr. David said. "There are certain elegant standards to the Audi, like the LED lights, that make Audis significant."
Another trend Mr. David has noticed in the past four to five months is an increase in female buyers, with 11 women buying Lamborghinis, Porsches and the like.
"These women want to show that they have worked hard for their money and they want to show that in a unique way," Mr. David said.
Prestige Imports will close out the year with 1,700 Audi sales and a bit under 100 Lamborghini sales, Mr. David said. Although the economy remains unstable, he said, Prestige Imports is going to end the year positively.
As for the new year, new inventory and sales goals, Mr. Barnes said he sees sales increasing, especially with the new 2012 C-Class Coupe. Mr. David said Audi sales will be high.
Mr. Feil also expects sales to increase: "We have a great inventory leading us into 2012 and we are ready to go."
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