DETROIT -- Last year, shoppers spent around $45 billion at retail outlets during Black Friday weekend, a National Retail Federation study showed.
Now auto dealers are looking to get in on the action, some experts say.
“Black Friday has become the shopping-Mecca day,” said Marc Cannon, spokesman for AutoNation Inc., the nation’s largest dealership group. “Obviously auto retailers are now looking at it and saying, ‘How can I get a piece of that retail activity?’”
Part of the reason for the interest, Cannon said, is the timing of Black Friday: It comes at the end of the month when dealers usually make a strong push to meet quotas and simultaneously serves as the kickoff to the holiday shopping season.
Cannon said AutoNation encourages its dealers to be involved with the holiday because of the selling opportunity that comes with it.
“With the recovery beginning to take hold, we all see [Black Friday] as an opportunity to capitalize on that bit of retail it’s become,” he said.
Many manufacturers already offer year-end discounts during the holiday season to push out old inventory and make way for new models.
But some dealers have found success in offering more personal incentives to those who come to the showroom on Black Friday, especially in the early hours after Thanksgiving Day.
Last year, for instance, Tim Hlavenka told Automotive News that Garden State Honda in Clifton, N.J. -- where he is general sales manager -- opened at 6 a.m. the day after Thanksgiving and held an iPad giveaway with a new-car purchase. The dealership had more time-sensitive offers staggered throughout the day, too, but the earlier the customer came, the better the deal.
Garden State sold 27 new cars and 12 used cars on Black Friday in 2010, as compared with 12 new and 7 used cars on a typical Friday, Hlavenka said.
Tammy Darvish, vice president of DARCARS Automotive Group in Maryland, said she will be involved with a similar campaign this year, giving away a new iPad with every new Toyota purchase.
It is the first time Darvish is getting involved with Black Friday.
“It’s a retail weekend, and consumers really associate Black Friday with one-time-only, good deals,” she said.
Another dealership group is also advertising a campaign to get people to the showroom.
Maroone Automotive Group, an AutoNation dealership group in Florida formerly owned by the family of AutoNation COO Mike Maroone, will host a 30-hour sale beginning at 6 a.m. the day after Thanksgiving. The first 20 sales at every Maroone showroom will include a 32-inch HDTV, the advertisement says
To take it one step further, customers will be able to pick their car and their price on Thanksgiving Day during a Silent Sale.
The Maroone group sells Cadillac, Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford, Honda, Nissan, Scion, Toyota, Volvo and Volkswagen vehicles.
More confidence this year
Darvish said a number of unanswered questions about the up-and-down of the industry as well as the perception that there were not many incentives available could have made dealers less confident about Black Friday last year.
But this year is different, she said.
“We anticipate consumer spending to be up this year,” Darvish said.
“The deals are so much bigger this year. This year you have the rebates, you have the zero percent APR; even our standard rates are at historically low rates.”
And adding consumer giveaways can distinguish you from your competitor, Darvish said.
“Every Toyota dealer will have the manufacturer incentives or the zero percent APR,” she said. “We wanted to do something really, really different.”
Cannon said he is optimistic that dealer interest in Black Friday deals will grow.
“There are always promotions going on, but what’s unique about [Black Friday] is auto retailers see this as another opportunity that maybe five years ago they didn’t see as an opportunity,” Cannon said. “The atmosphere around Black Friday has changed.”