Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Lexus under the Tree? Gifts Give Car Sales a Late-Year Lift

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Lexus under the Tree? Gifts Give Car Sales a Late-Year Lift

Article excerpt

What's the big shortage for gift givers this Christmas season? Chicken Dance Elmo? The latest video game for X-Box?

Try bows. The giant, $150 kind that look perfectly to scale slapped on the top of a brand-new, $30,000, $50,000, even $85,000 luxury car.

"There's been a big rush on bows," marvels Lexus spokeswoman Nancy Hubbel. "We can get them a car, but getting a bow is a little tougher."

Despite an economy that's been slow to restart, auto dealers and manufacturers expect low- and zero percent financing, cash rebates, and other incentives will tempt buyers into grabbing end-of-year deals on 2002 and 2003 models.

And more than a few of those vehicles - or at least the keys to them - are going to end up under somebody's tree.

"We do special things," says Michael White, general sales manager at Jaguar of Great Neck/Roslyn on New York's Long Island. "Late at night we ... leave the car in somebody's driveway so that when they wake up in the morning, it's there."

But even if recipients don't know they might be getting a new car on Wednesday, dealers - especially luxury dealers - are banking on it. Lexus is leading the cars-as-gifts campaign, with a series of TV spots featuring unveilings of Lexuses on Christmas morning.

Bob Carter, vice president of sales and dealer development for Lexus, says he expects new-car sales for December to exceed 20,000 vehicles, along with 3,100 sales of used luxury cars. "It's a trend that always has been with us," Mr. Carter says. "It's actually very difficult to quantify, but it is happening more often."

According to dealers, gift sales account for up to 10 percent of December sales - both new and used. December traditionally has been a slow month for auto sales, dealers say, except for the week between Christmas and New Year's Day, when many workplaces are closed and buyers eye deals on model-year closeouts. …

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