Auto Sales Fall Short Over Columbus Day Weekend

Automakers have long capitalized on three-day holiday weekends with sales promotions including traditional and digital ads in an effort to drive in-store traffic. 

With more than half of car buyers not contacting the dealership prior—just simply walking in—it’s no wonder the industry capitalizes on the extra day for traffic.

“We think it makes a lot of sense for dealers to take advantage of these mini-events to capitalize on demand, especially when OEMs and others are advertising or beefing up incentives,” James Grace, Cox Automotive’s senior director of product analytics, tells Marketing Daily. “However, dealers shouldn’t focus on holidays at the expense of day-to-day marketing efficiencies.”

Despite a strong September, Columbus Day Weekend car shopping activity was down this year, according to new data from and Dealertrack (Cox Automotive brands), and was indicative of an overall trend that three-day holiday weekends haven’t had the same bite as traditional weekends for auto retail.



This Columbus Day weekend was lower than the six-week average, in terms of Dealertrack’s Total Credit Apps and Unique Apps.  Only Columbus Day itself (Monday) was greater than the average. The other days were all below the average. Dealertrack also noticed a shift of 3.8% more towards credit apps on used vehicles.

“There are several possible reasons for the drop including the recent hurricanes and fires around the country,” Grace says. “In addition, the environment is getting increasingly competitive as we get to the end of the year and the industry is struggling to continue to increase demand.”’s DataView saw a 5% drop in visits and a 1% drop in vehicle views this Columbus Day weekend compared to the six prior weekends.

Labor Day weekend also saw a 3% drop in dealership website visits and a very slight 0.25% bump in vehicle views.

Long-weekend holidays earlier in the year such as Presidents Day and Memorial Day saw shopping activity go up by single and double digits respectively on dealership websites compared to prior six weekends. operates 62% of U.S. franchise dealership websites, and Dealertrack, a leading F&I solutions provider with over 22,000 North American dealers and 7,500 lender partners. 

“As we close out the year, dealers should continue to focus on quality over quantity, and ensure they are capturing on-going daily demand for their inventory through integrated advertising, social and website best practices,” Grace says. “Looking ahead, Black Friday and Cyber Monday has typically been another high point for car shopping, it will be interesting to see if the downward trend we saw for Labor Day and Columbus Day continues or if we see a rebound.”

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