DETROIT - Car shoppers who work in the auto industry are a pampered group nowadays.
Discounts once reserved for automakers' employees have been steadily expanded to dealership employees, supplier employees and others. General Motors recently included, through March 31, immediate family members of dealership employees.
The discounts are useful to attract buyers of competing brands, and their marketing costs can be cheaper than other incentive programs. The discounts are used for 3.5 percent of all U.S. sales, one analyst says.
The newly eligible buyers qualify for deals such as a 2003 Chevrolet TrailBlazer, listing at $28,652, for $21,608 - a 25 percent discount offered in a suburban Detroit dealer's ad last week.
The payment for a 36-month lease on the TrailBlazer, with a sunroof tossed in: $286.
GM's expansion of the program to family members of dealership employees matched a program the Chrysler group initiated last year, GM spokeswoman Elaine Redd says.
"It really was a response to something Chrysler did," Redd says. "That's the primary reason we did it. We're going to do what it takes to be competitive."
About 10 percent of GM domestic sales are to buyers using one of its discount programs, she says. Programs cover GM employees, as well as employees of suppliers, affiliated companies and dealerships.