The busiest week of the year for the car business begins today, the day after Christmas, and runs through the New Year. That’s when automakers and dealers slash prices to meet year-end quotas and bonus targets, and customers are likeliest to get the best deals.
“We will do as much business December 26th through January 3rd as we did December 1st through 24th,” said Melissa Steffy, general manager at Herb Chambers BMW in Boston. “This week in itself is a whole month of business for us.”
As manufacturers make a final push to meet their year-end sales goals, they traditionally offer dealers significant incentives to move this year’s models off the lots to make room for 2017 models. This year, automakers will keep their books open until Jan. 3, the first Tuesday after the New Year, which means consumers will have a few extra days to snag a bargain.
“Every single manufacturer is trying to hit their forecast, so they make it extremely enticing for luxury brands,” Steffy said. “At the dealership level, we’re trying to hit our business plan, too.” This year, the day before Christmas Eve was also lucrative at Herb Chambers BMW, with sales up an estimated 20% over the same day last year.
It’s true that sales associates are hungriest to strike a deal during the last week of any month, in order to meet monthly targets, but this week’s new car sales are expected to be 72% higher than average for the preceding weeks in December, according to Edmunds.com, the car shopping research site. In comparison, business during the final week of the other 11 months is 40% higher than average sales for the earlier weeks of the month.
December was the top month for auto sales last year, with automakers selling more than 1.6 million cars and trucks. Edmund expects this month’s sales to be on par.
Traditionally, the last month of the year is a strong one for sales of luxury vehicles in particular, but that doesn’t automatically equate to the steepest markdowns. “Just because the numbers are what they are, it doesn't mean that the monthly rankings will equal biggest discounts and deals,” said Matt Jones, senior consumer advice editor for Edmunds.
Meanwhile, dealerships nationwide are bracing for the week ahead. “You cannot even describe the frenzy,” Steffy said. “It’s absolute bedlam. It’s my favorite week of the year to work.”