Presidents Day deals on wheels

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February 15, 2013, 7:56 am
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(NECN: Peter Howe, Boston) Say ‘Presidents’ Day,’ and for many New Englanders, the next two words that automatically come to mind are "sales event."

But just how did the birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln come to be associated with wheeling and dealing on a new set of wheels?

Howie Reske, general manager of Herb Chambers Toyota in Boston, said it goes back a century to a former neighbor up the way in Brighton: “Presidents’ Day started right here on Commonwealth Avenue at Peter Fuller Cadillac, which is now Boston University,’’ Reske recalled in an interview Thursday.

“It actually kicks off our selling season, and there is a pent-up demand from the winter.’’

Ian Cross, director of the Center for Marketing Technology at Bentley University, has done extensive research in the auto business, including overseeing student research projects for Mazda and Suzuki. He says if cabin-fevered consumers are ready to buy this weekend -- dealers are also very ready to sell.

“Car dealers need to shift inventory that they've built up over the winter,’’ Cross said. “Typically, there is slow traffic, slow demand in the winter months, particularly here in Boston, so Presidents' Day is really the kick-start of the start of the sales season.’’

So do all these Presidents’ Day promotions turn February into the biggest month of the year for car sales? Actually, far from it, although they do apparently help give a big bounce up from the doldrums of January, according to data provided by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue on automobile sales tax collections, which move directly with underlying sales.

February monthly motor vehicles sales tax collections in Massachusetts since 2010 have lagged well behind many of the spring and summer months, although each year since 2010, February car sales (and tax collections) were 13- to 14.5-percent higher than the January a month earlier. Possibly the key question to ask is: How much more would sales be dropping in the month of February, given the lousy weather and snow, if there weren’t the heavy promotions to entice buyers to come out and shop despite the horrible weather.

This year, Cross said, it looks like the weather this weekend, after last weekend’s blizzard kept almost everyone home, will help encourage a robust Presidents’ Day sales cycle.

“There's spring fever. There's sunshine, a day off,’’ Cross said. “People are ready to go ahead and buy cars.’’

With videographer Scott Wholley

Tags: Peter Howe, Presidents Day, Brighton, commonwealth, car sales, Bentley University, presidents day deals, ian cross, center for marketing technology, auto business, peter fuller cadillac, herb chambers toyota
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