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Automakers work to capture market share with year-end deals

December 17, 2012|By Jerry Hirsch
  • An employee fixes the logo on a BMW at the end of the assembly line in Dingolfing, Germany.
An employee fixes the logo on a BMW at the end of the assembly line in Dingolfing,… (Christof Stache / AFP/Getty…)

Automakers are vying to win various annual sales crowns while dealerships are trying to achieve both year-end and month-end goals, a confluence of events that's good for car shoppers, said auto analyst Tom Libby of R.L. Polk & Co.

That's why the airwaves and weekend newspaper ads are stuffed with year-end deals for new cars.

Libby said that employees at dealerships and the sales staffs at manufacturers are compensated in part on whether they achieve year-end sales objectives as well as December goals, "which in effect doubles the pressure to sell new vehicles," Libby said. "This can result in savings to the retail customer over and above what is available at other times of the year."

In the luxury market, BMW and Mercedes-Benz are battling for the 2012 sales crown. Through November, Mercedes-Benz -- less its Sprinter utility van -- leads BMW by just 5,162 units, according to Polk's data. BMW beat out Mercedes-Benz and Lexus last year and has launched aggressive rebates through the end of the year in a bit to retain its top position in the market.

Libby noted that a similar battle is going on for "supremacy in muscle cars."

Through November, GM's Chevrolet Camaro leads the Ford Mustang by only 1,096 cars. Camaro was the winner last year.  Libby said people cross-shopping the pony cars should see great deals on both through the rest of December.

There's another battle going on between the Toyota and Chevrolet brands. Through November, the Toyota nameplate is third behind Ford and Chevrolet, but it trails Chevrolet by just 9,753 units. Libby said Chevrolet will want the runner-up spot, and therefore will offer good deals to get shoppers into its cars.

"Toyota, on the other hand, will want to surpass Chevrolet, which should generate special deals on their products," he said.

Finally, General Motors is shifting the factory floors at four plants to produce redesigned 2014 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pick-up trucks. It has built up a huge inventory of existing trucks -- 139 days' worth, according to Polk -- to get through the downtime. That's too much of the current versions -- almost 250,000 trucks.

"To rectify this situation, recently GM has put additional incentives on the existing inventory, and as year-end approaches, there will be increasing pressure to move these units," Libby said.

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Follow Jerry Hirsch on Twitter (@LATimesJerry), Facebook and Google+.

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