NICK BUNKLEY

Sell while you still can! Dealer cashes in on end-of-the-world sale

Nick Bunkley is an enterprise reporter for Automotive News.
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It's that time of year when most car dealerships inflate a few balloons, hang up some streamers and unfurl well-worn clearance banners.

But everyone who has just another run-of-the-mill sale this year is missing a once-in-a-planet marketing opportunity.

In case your Mayan word-a-day calendar has gone missing, let me remind you that we humans have less than a month left to live.

Armageddon is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 21, which means the whole presidential campaign was just a big waste of time. On the plus side, Notre Dame won't get to play for the national championship.

It also means the next few weeks are prime car-shopping time. After all, dealers can't take their unsold inventory to the afterlife, and consumers don't want to spend their final month driving a 2001 Dodge Stratus with a dented rear bumper.

So before death and destruction rain upon us, the Humberview Group, which has four General Motors dealerships in the Toronto area, saw a chance to go all out with one last blowout event.

Since early November, the dealerships have been running radio ads announcing "apocalyptic pricing on all remaining 2012 models, while supplies and the third planet from the sun last."

"Mayan Motor Mayhem!" screams a banner on Humberview's Web site, www.mynextgm.ca, which features a handy countdown to the End Times. "If the world ends, you don't pay!"

Says one ad: "If you want to get your hands on a deeply discounted Chevy, Buick, Cadillac, or GMC, it's now or never -- literally."

Another one offers more details about what the Mayan prophecy entails: "We're talking super volcanoes, pestilence, asteroids and other really crazy stuff, like a 2012 Chevy Cruze with zero-percent financing for up to 84 months."

Michael Carmichael, the dealer principal at one of Humberview's stores, City Buick-Chevrolet-Cadillac, said the ads, conceived and narrated by another executive at the company, have paid off. Showroom traffic and sales have spiked, not that it will matter a few weeks from now.

"The challenge with marketing today is nothing works anymore," Carmichael said. "We were looking for something that rises above the clutter. Heck, if we go, we go; if we don't, let's have some fun."

Six people have complained, which is pretty much the minimum anytime you do anything these days. (If fewer than six people complain about me in the comments below, I'll start to worry that no one is reading this.)

The ads have the same theme as one of Chevrolet's spots in this year's Super Bowl, in which four Silverado owners meet up after the apocalypse and discover that their Ford-driving pal, Dave, didn't make it. Then they share a box of Twinkies, which is now the most unrealistic part of the commercial.

Sure, I suppose there's a slight chance the world won't end in 24 days. But either way, a little more marketing creativity in the auto industry could make for one last December to remember.

You can reach Nick Bunkley at nbunkley@crain.com. -- Follow Nick on Twitter

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