Automakers Campaigned On President's Day

by , Feb 16, 2010, 3:42 PM
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Annually, President's Day is the first big sales day of winter after a long, slow January. Automakers use the holiday to launch sales events, and this year, some are gearing up for spring while hoping to poach Toyota in the process.

Edmunds.com says last weekend's President's Day sales events targeted people who might be considering a change, and came from a range of automakers. The company notes that the Chrysler and Dodge units of Chrysler LLC are offering money-back guarantees for minivans when consumers trade in a direct competitor's vehicle.

GM is dangling 0% up to 48 months on various models and began offering cash bonuses to people with vehicles under recall. Edmunds says Nissan is offering extra incentives for Toyota trade-ins for its Maxima large sedan.

Edmunds analyst Jessica Caldwell says the weekend is critical because it's the first weekend of a sort of sales thaw. "It's the first weekend when people start thinking about buying cars, and it's the only great sales period of the winter season," she says.

In terms of being predictive of spring sales numbers, "it's not a Groundhog Day or anything, but I think it really gives automakers a good idea of what people are looking for."

CarGurus, an online car shopping social site, measured auto shopping on its site 10 days before and after Toyota's Jan. 26 recall announcement. The firm says Toyota's share of search volume at CarGurus dropped between 6% and 16% for the four best-selling Toyota models recalled after the announcement.

The firm also says that in the 10 days after the recall, search market share for the Toyota Corolla (the fifth-best-selling car in the United States) dropped 13% compared to the 10 days prior to the recall announcement. During this same period, the leading search share gainers for competitive products to the Corolla were the Chevrolet Cobalt (11% gain) and the Ford Focus (9% gain).

During the 10 days after the recall announcement, share of search volume for Toyota's Camry dropped 8%. The firm says that search market share increased 15% for the Ford Fusion and 8% for the Chevrolet Impala.

Caldwell says in recent days, Edmunds.com has seen lifts in purchase intent for Hyundai and Mazda, and less for Chevrolet. But she argues that it's unlikely that people who have been import owners will jump to domestics that easily. "It doesn't seem like a huge population; it's a big leap from Camry to Malibu. It's a big walk, and we aren't seeing a ton of that yet."

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