Because used-vehicle prices remain strong and interest rates low, offering more leases makes sense, says Jonathan Banks, executive auto analyst for the National Automobile Dealers Association.
Banks says the mainstream automakers likely will offer more leases than the luxury brands because the mainstream brands had pulled back so much during the recession.
"You need those 3-year-old vehicles for certified pre-owned, and certified pre-owned demand has been really strong," Banks says. "Manufacturers will want that 3-year turn."
Asbury Automotive Group Inc. executives say that as long as the financial world is stable, manufacturers will push more leasing. But they will offer financing incentives instead of cash incentives.
Low finance rates "are a way for them to incentivize a particular model without it being damaging to the brand in the wholesale three years from now," Asbury COO Michael Kearney says.
Kearney says Honda, Toyota and Chevrolet are expanding lease offers.
Asbury, of suburban Atlanta, ranks No. 6 on the Automotive News list of the top 125 dealership groups in the United States with retail sales of 67,232 new vehicles in 2010. Asbury has 79 dealerships in 18 U.S. markets.
Group 1 Automotive Inc. had a successful fourth quarter with leasing, says Pete DeLongchamps, vice president of manufacturer relations.
"When you look at our lease percentage over the last few years, this year far exceeds what it was," DeLongchamps says. "It got down to high single digits during the darkest days when a lot of companies got out of leasing completely. It could be two or three times that."
Group 1, of Houston, ranks No. 4 on the Automotive News list of the top 125 dealership groups in the United States with retail sales of 97,511 new vehicles in 2010.