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Giving luxury cars as Christmas gifts? \'Tis the season... by Perkal

What's on your Christmas list - a Lexus, a Jaguar or a Lincoln?

It might seem excessive to park a R375,500 Jaguar XK coupe near the Christmas tree. But some luxury-brand dealers estimate that between 5 and 20 percent of the vehicles they sell in December are holiday presents.

Most of the gift-givers are men shopping for their significant others, says Alan Graham, general manager of Erhard BMW in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. Many of the gift cars are convertibles, Graham adds.

"Most (purchases) seem to be real impromptu,'' Graham says. "People come in a day or two before'' the holiday, he says.

Other luxury dealers say December is their best sales month. The busiest week of the year at Park Place Lexus in Plano, Texas, falls between Christmas and New Year's Day, says Troy Tucker, the dealership's new-car sales manager.

Since 1995, Lexus has used "December to Remember'' as the tag line of its year-end advertising. In 1998, it started dressing cars with giant red bows in its holiday-themed ads.

It wasn't until 1999, though, that the ads began to show people giving Lexus vehicles as gifts. Deborah Senior, Lexus' corporate manager of advertising, estimates that 10 percent of the brand's vehicles bought in December are presents.

Lexus gives several huge bows to each dealership and enables stores to obtain more, Tucker says. He says he has ordered about 100 enormous red bows and ribbons this holiday season. "We'll use them all,'' he says.

Several buyers already have told Tucker they want new cars decorated and delivered as surprise holiday gifts.

Ralph Fisher, general manager of Mercedes-Benz Manhattan, estimates that about 10 percent of his December new-vehicle sales are gifts "in some way.''

He says some buyers "reward themselves for a good year'' or after their holiday bonuses arrive. The dealership sold more than 300 new vehicles last December.

Nashville dealer Martin Bennett sells Jaguar, Audi and Porsche vehicles. Jaguar is his most popular brand for holiday gift-giving, he says. Still, he estimates that gifts account for less than 10 percent of his December Jaguar sales.

Bennett says his dealership "gets a push'' from seasonal ads. He laments that Jaguar has strayed from its "Unwrap a Jaguar'' holiday ad theme.

Bennett's most memorable holiday customer: country singer Garth Brooks, who once visited the dealership to buy five Jaguars for his management team.

CAPTION(S):

Lexus began putting big red bows on its cars in holiday-themed ads in 1998.

This article was published on Saturday 30 June, 2007.

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