Luxury imports to devote bigger bucks to used cars

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BMW, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz will increase their ad budgets in 2000 in an effort to help drive unit sales of used cars.

"We plan to boost our unit sales next year, and we will try to be more aggressive in marketing," said Bill Bates, pre-owned marketing manager at BMW of North America.

The company's first-ever national ad program for the certified cars started in the third quarter; Publicis, New York, did the all-newspaper push.

Mr. Bates said BMW plans to increase national media spending by 42% next year, regional spending by 33% and matching co-op funds for individual dealers by 25%.


Marv Ingram, national certified pre-owned and fleet manager at Toyota Motor Corp.'s Lexus Division, said media spending for its certified-vehicle advertising in the fiscal year that started Sept. 1 will be 7% higher than the prior year. Spending will be heaviest in cable TV.

Lexus plans to spend 20% more on ad production than in the prior year and increase its marketing budget by 25%. That budget includes deals on low financing rates, usually promoted for 60 days at a time.

Team One, El Segundo, Calif., handles Lexus.

Lexus changed its media buy in fiscal 1999 to reflect the changing face of its buyer. In 1998, Lexus advertised its certified pre-owned vehicles in eight magazines; this year, it bought only two of those titles among 11 magazines total, Mr. Ingram said.

That's because more men are buying certified pre-owned Lexus vehicles, he said. Female buyers now account for about 48% of all used Lexus sales, vs. about 42% a year ago.


Mercedes-Benz USA started national advertising for its certified pre-owned program in late 1998 -- mostly newspaper buys, with some spot TV and radio via regional programs. The marketer's new ad agency, Merkley Newman Harty, New York, is working on a campaign for 2000.

Gregg Goolsby, manager of pre-owned vehicles, said that although the 2000 ad budget isn't final, it will be substantially bigger than this year's. And the media buy will expand to national TV, with regional buys continued.

Dealer David Spisak, president of Bill Smythe European in San Jose, Calif., said Mercedes' Starmark certified program has increased his average used-car gross, although he hasn't had a big jump in unit sales.

"It might be because we haven't spent as much as we should have on national advertising," he said.

That's apparently about to change.

Ms. Halliday is a staff reporter at Automotive News.

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