It’s a Wrap (Almost): Car Brands Rev Up Year-End Marketing

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Lexus December to Remember 2017 Whisper ad red bow

Auto brands are doing all they can to bring 2017 U.S. car sales across the finish line ahead of last year’s record of 17.55 million vehicles. Most likely, they’ll come close, selling an estimated 17.2 million cars this year as Black Friday deals preceded—and still follow—the day after Thanksgiving.

End-of-year marketing on TV, radio, print and digital is ubiquitous, including Mazda’s “Celebrate the Season Event” campaign that features Takumi craftsmen and “handcrafted” vehicles to Lexus’s red bow-adorned perennial “December to Remember” campaign.

The competition for luxury sales crown between Mercedes-Benz and BMW also is keeping dealerships hopping, though it looks as though Mercedes will wear the U.S. title again for 2017 for the third year in a row.

And an ever-rising level of rebates and other financial incentives for American consumers has kept them flowing into showrooms.

Analysts disagree about what auto brands will report on Friday concerning November sales, with Edmunds.com estimating that new car and truck sales during the month rose by 3.5% over heady November 2016 levels, while J.D. Power & Associates and LMC Automotive forecasted an 0.2% dip.

“Usually, the first two weeks of the month are slow, especially before a holiday,” said Edmunds.com analyst Jessica Caldwell in a press release. “But this year retailers are pushing Black Friday bargains throughout the entire month of November, and it’s putting everyone in a buying mood.”

“It also doesn’t hurt that automakers are starting to really sweeten the deals to clear out lingering 2017s and end this year on a high note.”

Indeed, while the importance of Black Friday to general bricks-and-mortar retailers appears to be waning year after year in favor on online sales, car brands and dealers are getting more dependent on Black Friday traffic and sales.

Roughly double the number of regular shoppers visited U.S. dealerships on Black Friday, and they were greeted by special discount offers as well as the industry’s ongoing financing lures and special holiday-season promotions.

“There can be so much activity at dealerships [on Black Friday] that the sales staff can be overwhelmed and you might not be able to get deep questions answered,” said Matt Jones of Edmunds.com.

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