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Are you taking advantage of the 13th month?

Car dealers across the nation are hoping for a surge in new-vehicle sales during this holiday week, typically the strongest week of the year for car buying.

A robust showing between Christmas and New Year’s Day would close 2010, a tough year for the auto industry, on an up note, and give the industry reason to believe sales will be closer to normal next year.

 “Most dealers I’ve talked to are pretty optimistic,” said Wes Lutz, owner of Extreme Dodge in Jackson, Mich., about 60 miles west of Detroit. “We think we are coming out of the slump. Financing is easing up. We’re getting people into loans again.”

Edmunds.com, an auto-shopping website, is forecasting December sales of 1.13 million cars and light trucks. That would be the highest monthly total this year and a 10.2% jump from a year earlier.

Most auto makers also are doing their best to pump up sales, offering year-end incentives and cut-rate leases to pull in consumers. Toyota Motor Corp., General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group LLC are offering 0% financing on various models and, in some cases, adding cash rebates on top of that. In the past, car buyers typically had to choose between interest-free loans or rebates.

Toyota is offering 0% financing and $750 off the price of a Camry sedan. The company’s passenger-car sales have slumped for most of this year, largely due to the image damage Toyota suffered amid its recall crisis earlier this year.

Along with consumer rebates, almost all manufacturers are offering dealers rebates of $500 to $2,000 to give them flexibility to sweeten deals and close sales.

A year-end sales spurt is expected to lift the seasonally adjusted, annualized selling rate in December to more than 12 million cars and light trucks. If it does, that will mark the third month in a row above 12 million.

From Neal E. Boudette, “Car Dealers Hope for a Year-End Bump”. The Wall Street Journal, December 27th

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