Why do Automakers Capitalize on Christmas?

Sitting at home, stuck in 18 inches of snow for three days gave me the opportunity to watch hundreds of TV commercials. And despite the unnecessarily-loud volume and annoying number of carolers singing about electronics, I couldn’t help but take special note of advertising by automakers.

There are two main players who always seem to take advantage of the holiday gift-giving season, Mercedes-Benz and Lexus. These luxury car manufacturers have the ad dollars to spend, and they put them to good use around this time of year.Recently, TrueCar.com forecasted the best 10 days of the year to purchase a new car. Six of those days are in December. Click here to read their press release on the topic. If this is true, my question is: does the onslaught of luxury car ads between Thanksgiving and December 25th bother the general public?

Regardless of one’s religious point-of-view, I find it intriguing that Christmas is the only religious holiday where it is acceptable for carmakers to try to persuade the public – even Christians – that buying themselves or their spouse a new $50,000+ car would simply be honoring the spirit of the Christmas holiday.

(Side Note: Not that I don’t trust his taste or decision-making abilities, but I’m not sure that I’d want my husband to just show up Christmas morning with a new car in the driveway. In my opinion, that’s riskier than picking out the right engagement ring. I don’t really like surprises, so the thought of someone else making such a large purchase for me without my input doesn’t really excite me. Click here to read a humorous blog post on this topic by herscene in Louisville, KY.)

Ok, back to what I was saying. I, too, find it interesting that while automakers are obviously advertising “Christmas” specials, they refer to them as solely “Winter” or “December to Remember” events. See what I mean in Mercedes-Benz’s 2009 ad below:

I don’t mean to single out auto manufacturers or car dealers because they certainly are not the only businesses taking advantage of this opportunity to drive business to their stores. But I find the push for Christmas car shopping perplexing because most auto dealers are small, family-owned buisnesses. And I think it’s safe to assume that most of these small businesses observe the Christmas holiday and therefore, do not remain open for business on the 24th and 25th of December. So knowing this, how do ads like these by Lexus and MB work if nobody’s open for business (and certainly few are going to go out to buy a car) on Christmas?

As a Christian, I personally find some ads from companies slightly discourteous. But at the same time, I can’t say I’m immune to holiday deals. I just don’t have the cash flow to buy one of Lexus’ or Mercedes’ products. It’s really a catch 22 for us Christians because if we don’t participate in the festive gift-giving traditions we’re considered prudish Scrooges, but if we participate too much then it’s like we’re devaluing the purpose of the season.

Why then is Christmas different than, say, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa? Schools and businesses ask us and our children to celebrate these two December holidays in addition to Christmas, but I don’t see any advertisers playing “Dreidle, dreidle, dreidle” in the background of commercials filled with blue and white color schemes and menorahs all around.

Now, I don’t want to get into the nitty-gritty of religious differences here, but I am honestly curious to hear your opinions on this matter – from Christians, Jews and non-believers alike. I want to know what you think makes it acceptable for auto manufacturers and other companies to ask people to spend so much money at Christmas but not during Hanukkah, or at Easter, during Passover, or on All Saints Day?

Take a moment to look at the Lexus TV ad I’ve embedded below. Have you seen this and other TV ads from carmakers this holiday season? Do you think automakers are capitalizing on the Christmas holiday? And do you think it’s unfair for them to do so during a religious holiday? Would you want them to target you and your family and friends during the religious holiday most precious to you? Please provide comments below and share your thoughts and opinions with me. I look forward to reading your responses.

View the video here.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Email

Next Post:
Previous Post:
This article was written by

Melanie Batenchuk founded Be Car Chic in 2009 as a way to help consumers make smart decisions when buying and selling their cars. Her prior work at the dealership, trade association and manufacturer levels has provided her a deep understanding of the complex facets within the auto industry, making her a leading woman in her field.

There are 3 comments for this article
  1. CarChickMWB at 4:12 PM

    Again, I'd like to reiterate that I'm not accusing of automakers of doing anything wrong. They wouldn't spend money advertising during Christmas if it weren't effective. But I just wanted to explore this topic and hear others' input on the matter.

  2. William Bryant at 5:06 PM

    The catch 22 you're talking about has us centered between two beliefs. One, that Christmas is all about making the best of our numbers for the end of the year, people are shopping so let's capitalize on their shopping mode buttons being on and cash in on the rewards. The other, is the Christian belief that Christmas is all about Christ and gift giving is part of the tradition whereby we remember God's gift to the world. One is business, one is religious.Some businesses would rather keep the two completely separate with generic holiday ads that entice business, and keep the religious side to themselves. They would advise their dealers to be open Christmas Eve (like we'll be open) and just sell cars.Others are promoting "happy holiday" or even "Merry Christmas" ads, are closed on Christmas Eve, and are none the less cashing in on the shopping season.So the question is, since people's "shopping mode" button is turned on right now, do we throw our hooks out there in a bigger way in name of business and profit, or do we hold back in the name of keeping the holiday holy? This is a truly difficult area to mix, and therefore I think most manufacturers and many dealers have decided to keep business business and cash in on the holidays. To assume manufacturers would keep the season holy would be to assume that they, their board, and managers are Christian (or Jewish, etc) and unfortunately this isn't the case often times.But either way, I think what matters is what we do with everything we get bombarded with. As Christians, this is the holy season of Christmas and the wise choice would be to keep the season holy. Do we glorify ourselves with big fancy gifts? Buying a new car for my wife would be fun, I'd love to see her excited about it (she's not as picky about those things). Or should our focus be on Christ and giving to others, especially those less fortunate and often forgotten about, sharing with others the real reason for the season is to glorify God for his amazing gift he gave to us. The true spirit of Christmas would be to glorify God by helping others and giving to others.But, that's all up to each person to decide for themselves. In the end, Christmas is an amazing time filled with family joy and lots of fun. Let's try not to get bogged down in the business side of Christmas, and instead focus on the spiritual and loving side.Merry Christmas!William Bryant

  3. Chris Baccus at 6:31 PM

    You raise an interesting point, but the data from TrueCar shows that promoting holiday sales events works. The reason could be very similar to some data I recently was reviewing that shows people who buy a new home also buy a new car soon after moving into the new house (within 60 days.) The thinking is there may be a high correlation where consumers are simply in a big ticket purchase mode and already have their wallets open. The same thinking could hold true for the holidays where, like it or not, the season is about excessive consumption and buying a car may not be a big mental jump. What you'll find is that all marketers try to capitalize on the holidays. It is by no means isolated to this industry. I did wonder after watching the Lexus, ad you posted here, if the house was going to end up with a foreclosure sign and the Lexus was going to the Repo company as a final scene.