After a year filled with financial frights, some import luxury car dealers soon may be able to kick back and enjoy a few laughs.
In fact, this fun fest has already begun.While Honda and Chevrolet notched notable declines in their six-months sales, Audi, BMW and Mercedes posted brisk increases. The reasons: reduced prices on a few prime models, some incredible incentives, new products and leases too good to be true.
The deals were instrumental in drumming up business for several local dealers, who had been hard hit by the recession. Many reported increased traffic and buyers eager to work out a deal.
"The last six months have been pretty exciting," said Charles Ghesquiere Jr., owner of Estate Motors in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. "We're up 50 percent over last year."
Sales of luxury cars were so paltry last year that even the slightest increase may appear huge by comparison. Experts insist that's not operating here.
Audi, BMW and Mercedes "are really moving the market," said John Hammond, a senior partner with J.D. Power & Associates, a California-based automotive consultant. "Right now, you can get $6,000 to $7,000 back on some of those leases. They've been able to create some success stories that will stand up against the Japanese."
That's not the trio's only motive. Having been hammered by the recession and the Japanese, Europe's luxury carmakers want a little revenge. Honda, Toyota and Nissan scored hits with their Acura, Lexus and Infiniti models, stealing customers who might otherwise have bought European.
While the Japanese have been on the playing field, their scorecard in the quality game has been so high that the once lofty European standard has now come into question. The Europeans want to squelch that notion by wooing back Japanese luxury car owners.
The targets for all this marketing razzle-dazzle are yuppies buying their first luxury coupes. The Japanese and Europeans hope the young and affluent will choose them, and stay with them for the next 60 years.
The strategy for conquering the 1990s yuppie is relatively simple: It's now chic to be cheap.
"The status statement for the day is to make a smart purchase," Mr. Hammond said. "Price is very important to the young buyer. It says, 'Sure. I'm smart.' "
The lease is the Europeans' lethal lure, and some of the deals currently on the market hack hundreds from a monthly budget. For example, a 1992 525 BMW could be leased last year for 30 months for $800 a month. Under a special program, the total drops to $590, a $210 discount.