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Bad Winter Brings Good News For New Car Buyers

COON RAPIDS, Minn. (WCCO) -- After posting an incredible recovery following the recent recession, the nation's automakers didn't need to do battle with Mother Nature.

But the extreme winter weather across the country is forcing car dealers to get creative to help attract winter-weary customers.

At Roseville Chrysler, another truckload of new cars rolls off the trailer and onto the lot. While demand for new vehicles remains high, consumers are having a hard time making it in to the dealerships.

That accounts for huge inventories of unsold new vehicles at dealerships across the country. Dave Golinvaux, owner of Roseville Chrysler, would ideally like to have eight to ten weeks of inventory instead of facing an overflow of unsold vehicles, and with no place to store them.

"Our inventory is the largest it's been in our existence," Golinvaux said.

General Motors, Ford and Toyota all are reporting sales declines for February. Only Nissan and Chrysler posted gains, due largely to huge factory incentives on select models.

At Roseville Chrysler, there is so much snow piled up along their lot that it's cutting into parking for all those vehicles. Fortunately, Golinvaux was able to lease additional space across the road.

"We're pushing 500 new vehicles right now," he said. "And typically last year, to add in perspective, I had about 300 cars on the lot."

At Carlson Toyota in Coon Rapids, the sales force came up with an idea: if the weather's keeping customers home, why not bring the cars to them?

General manager Greg Gurewitz says they're offering new car buyers a test drive directly from their doorstep.

"Knowing the weather has inhibited people from coming into the dealership, we all got together and thought 'Why not come out to a customer's house and deliver the car to them?'" Gurewitz said.

To help boost sales, factory incentives are highest in three years, averaging $2,633 per new vehicle. And it can be several times that amount on some trucks and SUVs.

Call it the silver lining to a very white winter.

"On some Ram trucks, we take $10,000 off," Golinvaux said. "They have good interest rates, good rebates, so now is the time to buy."

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