European luxury cars are selling fast as buyers hurry to avoid new taxes that take effect New Year's Day.
A surge in late November and early December sales was reported this week by a dealers' association and sales managers."All companies are reporting an increase in sales," said Bob Howe, who follows European luxury cars for the National Automobile Dealers Association in McLean, Va. "In many cases their business has doubled from what it was a year ago. They are very mindful of the fact that there will be a fall in business in January."
On Jan. 1, consumers paying more than $30,000 for a new car will be assessed a 10 percent tax on the amount over $30,000, and the gas guzzler tax on the least fuel-efficient vehicles will double.
The new taxes could add thousands of dollars to a flashy car's price.
For example, the Mercedes-Benz 420SEL has a list price of $63,600, plus an $850 gas-guzzler tax. In two weeks, the price with the luxury tax and the higher gas-guzzler tax will rise more than $5,000, to $68,660.
At Estate Motors Ltd. in Birmingham, Mich., sales manager David Trudeau said Mercedes sales in early December jumped about 30 percent from the previous month.
Throughout the year, sales of expensive European imported cars, including Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Porsche, had been running behind last year's pace. U.S. sales of the 10 major European luxury carmakers for the year had dropped 8.2 percent through November, compared with the same 11 months last year.
Through October of this year, for example, Mercedes sales were 1.1 percent behind last year's pace. But based on a 7.3 percent increase in Mercedes sales in November, the West German automaker's sales through the first 11 months of the year were up 1.6 percent.
"The last week and a half of November, we had more traffic and more sales than in any week-and-a-half period in the year," said Eric Maas, sales manager at Classic BMW in Dallas. "We wound up with 50 cars (sold in the month) and we went into the period at about 15."
But the good times stopped rolling in December, he said. "This month has been an average month," Maas said.