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Reimagining Dealership Year-End Sales Events in 2021

Every year leading into the holidays, dealers and their customers have typically known what to expect when it comes to year-end sales events. These events are full of festive ads featuring Santa’s sleigh being led by a luxury vehicle, SUVs crashing through the snow and the ubiquitous giant red bow on top of a brand-new car in the driveway or garage. 

But as the looming microchip shortage and countless production delays continue, this year’s holiday season and year-end sales events for many dealerships will likely look vastly different than before.  

While some brands have been impacted more than others, no OEM has been completely immune from the effects of the chip shortage. In fact, IHS Markit’s forecasting team compiled information from more than 300 plant-specific outages across 63 carmakers when compiling their Q3 reports. 

As more and more OEMs scrap traditional holiday and year-end sales plans and pivot their approach, it’s critical dealers keep pace – and stay ahead. 

In this blog post, we’ll explore how dealers can reimagine their year-end sales events in 2021, including:  

·       How year-end sales will be new in 2021 

·       How dealers are changing their marketing strategies

·       New opportunities for year-end sales events and messaging 

How year-end sales will be new in 2021 

 While in the past luxury brands alone would collect as much as 15% of their annual sales during this period, this year’s holiday season will look starkly different than in year’s past. Not only are there limited vehicles left on many dealers’ lots, but those vehicles are also already selling at record highs. The chances of an OEM throwing a “December to Remember” sales event is pretty slim.

That doesn’t mean brands and dealers should stop communicating with their audiences. This year, many brands are exchanging everything-must-go holiday promotions for brand-forward campaigns and advertisements for future vehicles. 

For example, when discussing holiday sales in 2021, CEO of American Honda Jay Joseph told Forbes, “I’m not sure if it really makes sense for us to do [the traditional Happy Honda Days sale]. Until we have confidence that we have a more normalized supply, sales events probably don’t make a ton of sense. We were already soft on summer selling events, and we see no reason to jump back into that.” 

Instead, this year Honda launched a new brand-focused marketing campaign promoting the brand’s overall quality, safety and reliability demonstrated through the years. 

Ford is also pivoting its approach this year, opting to promote the new Mach-E and the Ford brand. 

Even for brands that are offering year-end sales events, dealers should still expect promotions to look different, including significantly shorter sales. 

“I think we’re still going to do it, I just think what we do [this year] will be less,” said Andrew Gilleland, head of the Lexus Division, to Automotive News. “We’re still going to have cars available; it’s just not going to be our typical 15 to 30 days’ supply; it might be more 10 to 12 days.”

How dealers are changing their marketing strategies

For much of 2021, record-high pricing, increased customer demand and limited inventory allowed some dealers to take advantage of spray-and-pray marketing strategies. But as brand loyalty continues to plummet in correlation with the industry’s day supply, dealers are being forced to rethink their approach. 

To proactively protect their customer base, dealers need to stay in consistent communication with their loyalty audience. This means offering transparent messaging that builds trust and sets realistic expectations with buyers rather than hard-selling them on what’s on the lot. 

With wait times and expected delivery dates ranging from dealer to dealer, engaging buyers with consistent, transparent communication empowers dealers to improve the dealership customer experience, stand out among the competition and build customer loyalty to fuel future sales and service revenue.  

To get ahead of potential delays at the end of the year, start by identifying opportunities to proactively engage prospective buyers preparing to return to market with brand-focused messaging tailored to them and in their preferred format. Ensure this messaging is consistent across all your platforms, including your website – and can confidently be explained by your sales team. 

New opportunities for year-end sales events and messaging 

Taking Advantage Pre-Owned Sales

In addition to building awareness and brand loyalty, there are numerous other opportunities for dealerships this holiday season as customer demand remains high – especially when it comes to pre-owned vehicles

With limited new vehicle inventory resulting in record-breaking sticker prices, pre-owned vehicles have become the go-to option for many buyers. Certified pre-owned vehicles not only offer customers additional peace of mind when purchasing a used vehicle, but CPO vehicles are currently selling at a premium with sales reaching 1,218,255 units through July, reflecting an 11% year-to-date year-over-year increase. 

Now as COVID-19-driven lease extensions are beginning to expire, CPO supply constraints are expected to improve, according to IHS Markit – offering some brands and dealers a unique opportunity to take advantage of the growing segment and build brand loyalty

Pre-Orders & Reserved 

For dealers with little to no-inventory, look for new ways to help the gift-giver create that special “big red bow” they’ve seen in advertisements for years – even without a bow. For example, many dealers are looking to pre-orders and reserved sales to help get customers the vehicle they want – even if it’s not delivered in time for the holidays. 

Leverage the Service Drive

Finally, as inventory shortages continue to motivate customers to hold on to their vehicles longer, look for opportunities to engage customers in the service drive. Aside from being an invaluable source of pre-owned acquisitions, the service drive affords your team countless opportunities to proactively engage customers, build rapport and promote customer loyalty long after each sale. As customers prepare for the holiday driving season, consider offering vehicle winterization promotions and other service specials to drive service appointments and revenue


While this year’s holiday car sales events may be filled with significantly fewer big red bows and catchy holiday sale titles, it doesn’t mean dealers will be left completely out in the cold. As ongoing inventory shortages are changing the ways OEMs plan their holiday incentives, it’s important dealers reimagine their year-end sales events and embrace all the opportunities that remain.