Though the auto industry is posting some of its best sales
since before the recession, automakers aren't necessarily resting on their laurels. This week, Toyota
began hawking its hybrids on HSN, formerly known as Home Shopping Network, and General Motors recently took the unconventional step of partnering with Costco to offer steep discounts on a dozen different Buick
Individual dealerships, meanwhile, became increasingly creative with their sales techniques during the recession. One New Jersey dealer brought in animals for a safari sales event, and a Virginia dealership dressed its sales force as rock stars in order to boost sales.
The appeal of shopping for a car without ever having to step into a dealership is what Toyota is capitalizing on with the first-of-a-kind HSN spots, which feature specialists talking viewers through features of the Prius
crossover and Camry
sedans. Logistical impediments including state dealer franchise laws prevent Toyota from actually selling the vehicles through HSN, but the automaker dangled free coffee mugs and $1,000 certificates for free gas and HSN credits to those who called in for information and eventually closed deals.
The GM-Costco discounts reportedly are part of a brand-awareness program
launched last fall by the automaker and revived again this year. This go-round, Costco shoppers can get the equivalent of GM's employee pricing on everything from the Chevrolet Cruze
to the GMC Sierra
. Last spring, Subaru
had a similar program with the big-box retailer.
How are the creative sales techniques faring so far? Gangbusters, according to Toyota. The automaker says it received more calls in the hour after its first HSN segment aired than it expected to get all day. GM doesn't have much to lose by discounting some of the cars involved in its Costco program; the Silverado
, for example, experienced a 17 percent decline in sales last month. Last year's iteration of the program was, according to GM's head of consumer affairs, James Bell, "very successful."