The notion of cars as holiday gifts sprang from the imagination of an ad agency more than a decade ago. But in recent years, many of the industry's marketing minds have enthusiastically embraced it -- and so have car buyers.
Together, they have helped turn December, once a sleepy month for U.S. auto sales, into one of the top selling periods, year after year.
December is projected to be 2014's fourth-best month for new-vehicle sales, quite a feat since this December has only four sales weekends rather than five. TrueCar is forecasting December industry sales of just more than 1.5 million light vehicles, which would place this month behind May's 1.61 million, August's 1.59 million and March's 1.54 million -- all of them considered key months for auto sales.
"We now see sales congregating around three epic selling seasons," said John Krafcik, TrueCar's president.
The first occurs in March and late spring, and the second quickly follows in the summer.
"The period that stretches from Black Friday to New Year's has emerged as the third blockbuster period," Krafcik said.
This pattern of heavy selling in the final weeks of the year, when shoppers were traditionally camped out at the mall, is largely a result of automaker marketing and increasing emphasis on year-end deals as automakers compete for sales bragging rights.