Holiday BBQs Still Sell Cars

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Hot dogs, apple pie and lots of unsold Chevrolets are on the Memorial Day menu at Bill Stasek Chevrolet in Wheeling, Ill., while Raymond Chevrolet in Antioch, Ill., is planning barbecues.

We’re not sure if food soothes the savage beast, but it apparently helps sell cars over the holidays. As they’ve done for years, dealers are planning cookouts to get folks into their showrooms over the holiday weekend.

“Whether it’s furniture or cars, consumers are conditioned to sales and lots of hoopla over holiday weekends,” said Mark Scarpelli, owner of Raymond Chevy in Antioch.

Brad Tuftin, general sales manager at Stasek Chevrolet, agrees.

“The Memorial Day holiday brings in people who simply were driving by who decide to stop in and take a look,” he said.

So a hotdog on a bun and a slice of apple pie on a plate can actually attract customers?

“Sales on a Memorial Day or Labor Day weekend will be 12-15% higher than any other normal weekend,” Tuftin said. 

It helps, of course, that in the time it takes to finish a hot dog or hamburger, a good salesman can detail the merits of any vehicle he has in stock with the customer.

“It helps, of course, too, that the factory always has incentives going on holiday weekends,” Scarpelli said of the rebates and discount-financing programs that are common industry-wide.

Dealers say the price of gas could also prove a blessing this weekend.

“It looks like $4 for a gallon of gas was the magic number to convince people that high prices aren’t going away,” said John Hennessy of River Oaks Ford in Calumet City, Ill.

Hennessy said that, in keeping with the holiday, a 29-foot Uncle Sam balloon will be their lure to draw folks onto the lot.

“On Saturday people are going to spend time with the family, but Monday is the day they’ll shop, and when they see something that says ‘fun,’ it attracts their attention, like the 29-foot balloon, and they tend to stop in,” he said. “With $4 gas and the shift out of big SUVs, we expect them to look at high-mileage cars because they’re tired of spending $100 to fill the tank.”

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