DETROIT -- The long weekend that starts with Black Friday is the time traditional retailers kick off the start of the holiday season by making big bucks from bargain-hunting consumers.
And car dealers apparently earned a piece of the action this year, too.
Light-vehicle U.S. sales in November, which will be announced tomorrow, could be at the best rate since the “cash for clunkers” program in August 2009, Bloomberg reported today.
“It was very successful,” Chris Huston, general sales manager for Andy Mohr Ford in Plainfield, Ind., said of his dealership’s Black Friday turnout.
Over the weekend, some dealers tried their luck at bringing customers into their showrooms by offering iPads or TVs with the purchase of a new car, on top of manufacturer and dealer incentives.
The Bloomberg report said light-vehicle sales for the month may have run at a 13.4 million seasonally adjusted annual rate, by the average of 14 analysts it surveyed. If that’s the case, that would top the 12.3 million pace of a year earlier and October’s 13.3 million rate.
Huston opened at 6 a.m. and offered “doorbuster specials” until 9 a.m. Giveaways included a TV to those who purchased a new car and $20 gas gift cards to those who took test drives.
A dozen sales by 9 a.m.
Huston said the store sold a total of 40 new and used vehicles on Friday -- a dozen of them by 9 a.m. He said that was at least double the pace of a typical Friday.
Huston used a combination of e-mail notifications, Facebook Web page updates, pop-up advertising on the dealership’s Web site and some newspaper advertisements to get the word out.
Rocco Massarelli, a general sales manager with Patrick Dealer Group in suburban Chicago, said his dealership had similar success over the weekend.
Patrick Dealer Group had a two-day sale with discounts, food and refreshments, but Massarelli said his dealership did not have any giveaways and did not ramp up advertising.
Still, the dealership sold 20 cars for the weekend. “Friday is typically slow, and it picked up,” Massarelli said. “Saturday was more like a normal Saturday.”
But other dealers were unsure what to make of their turnout for the weekend.
Constantin Nicorescu, general sales manager of Toyota Silver Spring in Maryland, said his sales were up from last year’s Black Friday weekend but not quite to the level he expected.
As part of an initiative from its parent Darcars Automotive Group, the dealership offered a free iPad with the purchase of a new Toyota vehicle, among other incentives.
Toyota Silver Spring sold 53 new cars over the weekend -- 10 more than last year but not the 80 or more new cars he was hoping for, Nicorescu said.
The dealership sold 18 new cars on Friday alone, which Nicorescu noted was above average for a Friday.
“We’re very happy with what we did,” he said.
Nicorescu suggested that customers may still be uncertain about their economic future and refraining from big-ticket purchases. But he expects to make another Black Friday effort next year, adding:
“Maybe the economy will show a little bit of improvement by then.”