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From USA Today:

Auto buyers teased with gimmicks

While automakers continue to pile cheap loans, deep discounts and soaring rebates on cars and trucks, dealers are adding cruises, sports tickets, computers and free gas to lure buyers.

Dealers say it's a way to reach consumers who know they don't have to hurry in today to get a deal because tomorrow's offer probably will be better.

For buyers, it's another reason to consider a purchase, along with sky-high incentives that help make cars more affordable than they've been in 25 years.

The offers are likely to continue as inventories climb and the pool of buyers remaining in the market likely shrinks.

Dealers "compete hard," says Tom Healey, a marketing partner with J.D. Power and Associates. "They will experiment with promotions if it brings in more money than it costs them."

At the end of January, automakers had 270,000 excess cars and trucks on dealer lots, about 10% above the five-year average for January, says Merrill Lynch analyst John Casesa.

Practically every automaker is now fighting the incentive war, which shows no sign of abating.

Last week brought more announcements of beefed-up incentives: Chrysler added $500 cash to several trucks, including the Dodge Ram pickup, which now has $2,500 in rebates on it.

Chevrolet raised the rebate on Avalanche, its pickup/sport-utility combo, from $2,500 to $4,000.

Mitsubishi raised rebates on most models, some to $3,500.

For dealers, that means they need added inducements to stand out. Some things they're trying:

Greg Muren, marketing manager of Auffenberg Auto Group in Illinois, says the dealership's sales go up 15% to 25% whenever he offers a free-cruise deal.

Odenza Marketing Group, which provides dealers cruise packages and ones that include professional sports tickets, says sales have risen sharply the past year. "We've got all kinds of dealers, from small-town dealers to large corporate auto malls," says Sodi Hundal, Odenza president.

Passport Nissan and Passport Chrysler in suburban Washington, D.C., have been promoting free gas for a year, about $700 worth, depending on the vehicle. Buyers can take the cash and apply it to the price of the car instead.

Some promotional firms are pitching packages to dealers that include a free computer. The downside is that the car buyer may have to purchase two years of Internet service from the provider to get the computer.

Healey says dealers will continue to offer promotions, but they'll need to be creative: "There will always be these gimmicks, but nothing works year around."

480 Posts
...like the Avalanche, perhaps?

MPG 14 (city) / 18 (highway)
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