Presidents Day Could Boost Car Dealers Hurt By Winter

The industry needs a comeback after a cold January

  • Share
  • Read Later
Michael Melford / Getty Images

Auto dealers who saw miserable January weather send car sales skidding off the road were hoping Monday that the Presidents Day sales rush would help get their industry back on the road, even if cold weather keeps more buyers home than last year.

Freezing weather in January hit sales hard after the now-infamous Polar Vortex, and dealers are looking for a way to make up lost ground. General Motors reported a 12 percent reduction in sales compared to last January, and Toyota and Ford both reported around a seven-percent decrease.

But car dealerships can usually count on a strong day of sales on Presidents Day, with a bevy of sales offers and a work holiday nudging consumers to purchase new autos, and dealers were hoping Monday would be a comeback day.

“Presidents Day, including the weekend leading up to the holiday, is a good time for car buyers to shop for a new vehicle because many have the day off from work on Monday and they can spend the extra time visiting new-car showrooms, taking test drives and finding out what incentives and rebates are available,” said Chuck Cyrill, a spokesman for the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA).

But the winter weather may make this Presidents Day less lucrative than last year’s, said Steve Jordan, the executive vice president of the National Independent Automobile Dealers Association. The slew of Presidents Day sales should help automakers and dealerships, but with inclement weather across the South, many will stay indoors rather than brave the show-rooms. 

“The weather has definitely had an impact on sales within the last week or so, and I think it will continue to have an effect especially in the southern states,” Jordan said. “Any holidays are a good opportunity for retail sales, except for those states impacted by the weather.”

In the long term, car dealerships say they aren’t worried. The economy has boosted strong numbers for the auto industry that bounced back healthily after the recession, with total auto sales in the U.S. topping 15 million vehicles for the first time since 2007. Full-year sales for 2013 were up 7 percent compared to 2012 for both General Motors and Toyota, and sales are likely to continue to rise after the industry gets over the winter hiccup. NADA is predicting that 16.4 million new cars and light trucks will be purchased or leased in the U.S. this year, a 5.8-percent increase from 2013.

“We expect to see some improvement in new-vehicle sales over the next couple of weeks as we enter the spring selling season in March and the weather improves,” Cyrill said.