Car-Shopping Activity Takes a Holiday of Sorts on Columbus Day Weekend

“In general, we see an increase in holiday-weekend shopping,” says James Grace, a senior director at Cox Automotive.

Steve Finlay, Senior Editor

October 17, 2017

3 Min Read
Automakers and dealers typically capitalize on 3day holiday weekends
Automakers and dealers typically capitalize on 3-day holiday weekends.

The last 3-day holiday weekend failed to provide the razzle-dazzle such periods often do for the auto industry, according to and Dealertrack data.

Digital car-shopping activity was down for the Columbus Day weekend (Oct. 7-9), according to the two Cox Automotive brands.

Automakers and dealers typically capitalize on 3-day holiday weekends with all-out sales blitzes that include traditional and online advertising to draw in-store traffic.

“In general, we see an increase in holiday-weekend shopping,” says James Grace, Cox Automotive’s senior director-product analytics. 

But this Columbus Day weekend was lower than the 6-week average, in terms of Dealertrack’s total and unique credit applications. (Each time a consumer in a dealership wants auto financing, the F&I manager submits a unique credit application through Dealertrack’s portal. Total credit applications reflect the number of times various lenders get an application.) Except for Columbus Day itself (Monday), such activity on the preceding Saturday and Sunday were below average. 

Measurements of regular weekend business traffic cover Friday through Sunday. For holiday weekends, the span is Saturday through Monday.

Regarding the Columbus Day weekend,, which operates 62% of U.S. franchise dealership websites, and Dealertrack, an F&I software provider with more than 22,000 North American clients and 7,500 lender partners, also found:

  • A shift of 3.8% more toward credit applications on used vehicles.

  •’s DataView saw a 5% drop in visits and a 1% drop in vehicle views this Columbus Day weekend compared with the six prior weekends.

  • Labor Day weekend also saw a 3% drop in dealership website visits and a 0.25% bump in vehicle views.

Holidays weekends earlier in the year – President’s Day in February and Memorial Day in May – saw shopping activity increase by single and double digits, respectively, on dealership websites compared with the prior six weekends.

Last Black Friday and Super Bowl weekend also were special-event times that saw similar upswings.

Automakers have increased incentives to move inventory although they haven’t gone nuts doing so, Grace says. Still, “the industry has been exerting a lot of market energy for several months,” and that may have pulled away some automotive action from the Columbus Day weekend. “The industry is struggling to increase demand.”

WardsAuto last month lowered its U.S. light-vehicle sales outlook for 2017 to 16.9 million units from 17.1 million. Though still possible, a huge bargain-basement sale appears unlikely this year.

“(The seasonally adjusted sales rate) has been under pressure since the beginning of the year,” says Grace, who formerly worked for General Motors. “I don’t think the industry will overachieve this year.”

He encourages dealers to spend their marketing dollars wisely by focusing on quality over quantity. That means using digital tools that track consumer online behavior and website visits to determine who is most likely to buy a vehicle –

and target-market to them – rather than use a shotgun advertising approach pursuing consumers who aren’t seriously in the market for a vehicle.

Various factors are used to score car-buying likelihood. Those include time spent on a dealership website in general and on vehicle-detail pages in particular.

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