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How to Get Santa to Deliver the Best Deal on a New Car for the Holidays

Some of the best deals of the year are available in December.

by on Dec.14, 2012

Holiday shoppers will put plenty of cars under the tree this year.

Unless you’re the sort of person who finishes up their holiday shopping even before the first Black Friday ads show up on television, you’re likely racing around trying to figure out what to get for your loved ones.  Maybe for yourself.

Perhaps a new car is on somebody’s wish list but you’re wondering whether it makes sense to buy one this time of year.  Well, if you can swing the down payment it just might be.

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Historical data – and recent comments by industry executives – suggest that December is traditionally a good time to buy and this year may yield some especially attractive deals.

“This will be the highest discount period,” contends Jesse Toprak, chief auto analyst for the data tracking firm


Lenders Loosen Up Car Loans

Sub-prime lending returns – for those willing to pay the price.

by on May.31, 2012

Lenders are returning to the automotive market, according to a new study.

Even in the depths of the Great Recession there were plenty of folks willing and seemingly able to buy new cars.  The problem for many was a lack of loans.  Banks and other lenders all but shut off the spigot, refusing to do business, in some cases, with even the most credit-worthy customers.

While financing still isn’t quite as readily available as it was during the bubble years – when some lenders were willing to offer so-called NINJA loans, for those with no income, no jobs or assets – consumers are once again beginning to find credit easing up, according to a survey by Experian Automotive.

The good news for both new and used car shoppers is that loans are not only more readily available they’re also being offered at lower rates.  Experian’s latest survey also found lenders beginning to wade back into the waters of sub-prime lending – though shoppers with risky credit histories are paying substantially higher rates.

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“During the first quarter of 2012, car shoppers definitely found more favorable conditions for their vehicle loans,” said Melinda Zabritski, director of automotive credit for Experian, which tracks lending and credit. “A reduction in average credit scores, lower interest rates and a lengthening of loan terms are all very good signs for the market and offer great opportunities for consumers looking to make a deal on a new or used vehicle.”


Growing Number of Buyers Steer Clear of Imports

“Conventional wisdom,” rather than latest quality data, often a factor in brand selection, says new J.D. Power study.

by on Jan.26, 2012

Makers like Ford -- its new 2013 Fusion shown here -- and Hyundai have to overcome negative quality perceptions that lag reality, according to a new study.

Word-of-mouth is typically a critical factor in the choice a car buyer makes, yet “conventional wisdom” about which brands have the best quality may be sorely out of date, notes a new study by J.D. Power and Associates. Nonetheless, 40% of buyers say they steered clear of one brand or another because of what they’ve heard about quality, rather than actually checking for the latest data.

Meanwhile, though Detroit automakers have long abandoned their “Buy American” campaigns, the public’s interest in bringing more manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. seems to be paying off.  Power’s latest annual “Avoider Study” finds that that nearly one in seven buyers has steered clear of a foreign-badged product precisely because of where it was made.

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The 2012 Avoider Study also found that fuel economy is now the most influential factor in choosing – or avoiding – a product, though factors like price and styling are also strongly influential.

“The fact that so many new-vehicle buyers may be basing their opinions about quality and reliability on pre-conceived notions, rather than concrete information or data, demonstrates how important it is for automakers to promote the quality and reliability of their models,” said Jon Osborn, research director at J.D. Power and Associates.


TrueCar Yields to Critics and Regulators

Facing mounting legal hurdles, pricing service plans “sweeping changes.”

by on Jan.17, 2012

TrueCar founder Scott Painter is promising "sweeping changes" to the site's business model.

Scott Painter has never been one to readily yield to his critics, but with state regulators taking aim and a series of huge legal battles looming across the country, the Internet car sales pioneer has backed down, announcing “sweeping changes” to the way his latest venture,, operates.

The service has generated significant buzz – and plenty of traffic – since its launch, promising to provide consumers with what it has claimed to be the most accurate pricing data online.  Dealers, in turn, were provided an alternative model to attract customers.  Instead of paying for leads, as is the case with most online auto sites, they only paid a $300 fee whenever a car was actually sold.

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TrueCar’s approach has generated strong support in some quarters – but plenty of criticism elsewhere.  And angry dealers, always a force to be reckoned with, were able to rally support in a number of states where TrueCar appeared to be running afoul of strict franchising laws.  Notably, states like Texas and Virginia bar so-called “bird-dogging,” or auto brokering, where a third party steps in to help a customer get a better price.


December A Great Deal Time for Car Shoppers

Put a new car under the tree and save a bundle.

by on Dec.08, 2011

Forget the sweaters and ties. You may get a better deal on a new car this holiday season.

Becky Poston admits she’ll be spending a little less on ties, sweaters and the other small gifts she normally puts around the family’s tree for Christmas.  She’ll need the cash she saves for a downpayment on a new BMW 328i she decided to buy.

“I wasn’t really serious, just looking,” says the New Jersey administrative assistant, “but when I heard the deal they were ready to make I couldn’t say no. So, the new car is the real present to my family this year.”

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Poston isn’t alone.  As many savvy buyers have discovered, some of the best deals of the year are usually offered between Thanksgiving and New Year, a time when shoppers usually turn their attention to more traditional gift-giving purchases like clothing, toys, consumer electronics – and bad ties.

“December is going to be the best month of 2011 to buy a car with manufacturers offering attractive year-end incentives and dealers motivated to move inventory to get to their sales objectives,” notes Jesse Toprak, head of Industry Trends and Insights for


Lexus Tops JD Power Sales Satisfaction List

Consumers, generally happier with buying process.

by on Dec.02, 2011

Lexus topped the list in the latest J.D. Power Sales Satisfaction Index.

It’s often compared to a trip to the dentist – but a new study says American motorists are far more comfortable than you used to be with the car buying process.

In fact, satisfaction with the new-vehicle sales process has improved notably from 2010, according to the latest of J.D. Power and Associates 2011 U.S. Sales Satisfaction Index, or SSI, with Lexus topping the chart among luxury brands, while Mini ranked highest among mass market brands for a second consecutive year.

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While Lexus and some of the other high-scoring brands also lead the way in terms of quality and reliability that’s not always the case, Mini coming in well below industry average in the latest J.D. Power Initial Quality survey.

Significantly, as manufacturers have come to recognize the increasingly competitive nature of the new car market Power data show that they’ve been putting a higher emphasis on satisfying the customer as soon as they walk into the showroom door.  And surprisingly, in some cases, that means taking more time with customers rather than rushing them in and out of the showroom.


Are American Drivers Immune to Fuel Price Hikes?

Buyers are changing driving patterns rather than shifting vehicle choices.

by on Aug.09, 2011

Buyers continue to go for pickups and SUVs - albeit with high-tech engines that can deliver better mileage.

When gas prices first hit $2.50 a gallon, auto industry planners braced for a dramatic shift in the market.  It didn’t happen.  When the pump price first nudged $4, back in the summer of 2008, environmentalists rejoiced, betting that hybrids would replace pickups and SUVs as the vehicles of choice.  Yet after a month or so, most U.S. motorists went right back to the cars and trucks they long preferred.

This year’s run-up in fuel costs has once again led many to anticipate a wholesale shift in demand and indeed, sales of small cars have been gaining ground – but pickups, SUVs, crossovers and muscle cars haven’t exactly vanished from the sales charts – a new study by AutoPacific, Inc. suggesting that despite wishful thinking, Americans have largely grown immune to high fuel prices.

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The consulting firm’s latest Fuel Price Impact Survey concludes that while, “American drivers complain about near historically high fuel prices…few are doing much about it. In fact, choice of what vehicle to buy in the future appears to have decoupled from the price of fuel.”


Gen-X Buyers Opt for “Family-Friendly” Vehicles

European imports lead the list.

by on Jul.13, 2011

European models top the list - even if the number offering, the VW Routan is actually a rebadged version of the Detroit-made Chrysler minivan.

That sometimes forgotten generation of post-Baby Boomers, Gen-X has moved from the grunge and rock-and-roll life phase to raising families of their own – which may explain why “family-friendly” is the key word in describing the sort of vehicles that wind up most on their shopping list, according to a new study.

As they become increasingly affluent, this relatively small group of the population – born between the mid-1960s and early ‘80s – have developed a clear taste for the roomy, well-equipped vehicles they can use to haul kids and grandkids, as well as the other accoutrements of an established life, finds’s analysis of Gen-X buying data.

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Significantly, there are signs that the old maxim that each generation moves away from the cars their parents drove is at least partially true.  Among the Top 5 models on the Gen-X list is only one Japanese brand, fourth-ranked Mazda.  The most popular brands, in order, are Volkswagen, Land Rover and Audi.  Rounding out the group is the only domestic model, Jeep.


Detroit Makers Still Struggling to Win Young Buyers

But there are some surprises among the brands Millennials want most.

by on Jul.07, 2011

Scion's tC is the most popular model with Millennials.

Conventional wisdom suggests that young buyers will turn away from the products their parents drove – potentially good news for Detroit’s Big Three who collectively lost the big Baby Boom generation to the imports.

New models, such as the Ford Fiesta, are specifically targeting Generation-Y, and the success of those products could determine whether Detroit reverses decades of market share losses, particularly in trendy coastal regions, such as California, where domestic brands account for barely one in four current car sales.  (Click Here to find out which are the most “patriotic” automotive markets.)

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Unfortunately for the Motor City, a new study suggests that while Gen-Y might be turning away from some traditionally strong Japanese marques, like Toyota and Honda, those young buyers are continuing to focus on Asian, rather than American, automakers.


A McBlog Sidebar

The worst of time (can be) the best of times.

by on May.16, 2011

Storm clouds on the horizon? Buying some cars, like the Prius, can be a challenge right now.

Buying a car, these days, can test the patience of Job, columnist Denise McCluggage noted in her latest McBlog, yet the worst of times can turn into the best of times…with a little help. Here’s a sidebar to her column.

Fred Vang is a personal consultant to car shoppers. He lives in Santa Fe NM but his clients come from anywhere. He helps them gel their amorphous thoughts about acquiring a new car into something he can actually search for. He negotiates the deal, he handles the documentation and registration and arranges all the delivery details. In short he drains the tension out of acquiring a new vehicle and enhances the pleasures.

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In the current market that’s hard to do but his long-held connections still leave the door ajar.

Fred sees a bright spot even in a market with new models in limited supply and used cars tagged with extremely high prices. “The worst of times can be the best of times for a few,” he says. And those few are people just coming off a lease.