Is there something mystical about holidays that puts people in a car-buying mood? Does a kind of magic mesmerize them to shop for vehicles because it’s the Fourth of July, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Presidents’ Day and, of course, the upcoming Memorial Day weekend?
Actually, the magic is in the marketing that uses holiday themes to move the metal. Throughout the year, automakers and dealers tie sellathons to national holidays.
It largely works, even though some of the ballyhooed holiday deals aren’t really that special.
And with the automotive market’s current high demand and low supply, few buyers will get a steal this long weekend (although they might think they did; again, chalk it up to good marketing.)
Offering their takes on the holiday-vehicle sales tie-ins are Haig Stoddard, principal analyst for Wards Intelligence/Informa Tech Automotive Group, and Matt Weinberg, senior vice president-customer experience for Modal, a company that provides dealers with online e-tailing software.
“How strong the Memorial Day deals are – and if they are really significant – is a result of how strong the market is and how much inventory there is,” says Stoddard. “A strong market and lean inventory – which we have now at extremes – usually means the holiday deals won’t be all that great in total.”
Retailers, automotive and otherwise, like to tap into holidays because they “present a good time to create excitement about deals, or lower prices,” says Stoddard (pictured bottom, left). “Sometimes it is perception. Sometimes the deals are not that great. But promoting holiday specials increases dealer traffic.”
Weinberg (pictured below, left) calls it the “Hallmark effect,” referring to the Hallmark greeting card company. “The more holidays you have, the more cards you sell,” he tells WardsAuto.
Memorial Day is a particularly strong occasion for hyping vehicle sales. It’s at the month’s end when dealers strive to hit goals or quotas. It is also in the thick of the spring selling season, a brisk time of year for auto retailing.
Weinberg predicts online car orders will triple this Memorial Day weekend.
Why? He cites two reasons.
First, digital auto retailing gained traction during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Consumers are still seeking the convenience and safety of remote, online buying, he says.
Second, with inventories lean as they are because of a microchip shortage and other factors affecting auto production, consumers are using the internet more to seek the vehicle they want, even if it is outside their local market, he says.
But the dearth of inventory “means the huge discounts will be harder to come by,” says Weinberg, who started his career selling cars in Pennsylvania and Florida in the 1990s.
Modal provides e-commerce to dealers through their websites. Today’s car buying journey usually starts online and ends at the dealership, although the path isn’t always so linear.
For example, a customer at the dealership may leave without yet buying but instead return home to do more digital research or even to make the preliminary purchase online before heading back to the dealership to do the paperwork.
Everyone has their own way of buying a vehicle, he says. “Maybe some people will be online buying a car while they are at a Memorial Day barbecue.”
Steve Finlay is a retired WardsAuto senior editor. He can be reached at [email protected].