Time for cheap financing on expensive cars

Jim Henry is a special correspondent for Automotive News

You may still be raiding your kids' Halloween bags, but the Big Red Bows signaling year-end deals are already out at luxury-car dealerships.

The bows seem to appear earlier each year. But in the case of Lexus, whose U.S. sales are down 16 percent through October after being hit hard by natural disasters in Japan and Thailand, the jump-start is understandable.

Lexus will begin its "December to Remember" promotion, with images of cars wrapped up with big red bows like presents, on Friday.

Mercedes-Benz USA and Mercedes-Benz Financial Services have already launched the brand's annual "Winter Event." Deals include 1.9 percent financing for some models -- for up to 66 months on the 2012 C300 Luxury 4Matic sedan, according to advertised specials.

Luxury brands prefer lease incentives, cut-rate loans or dealer incentives instead of cash rebates, since cash on the hood cheapens the brand image.

It will be interesting to see how early the bows will pop up next year. By Labor Day perhaps?

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