How Automakers Are Giving Back This Holiday Season

Source: iStock
Source: iStock

Thinking about the less-fortunate this holiday season? Lots of Southern California motorsports fans are, and they congregate every year on the first Sunday in December — each one bringing a gift.

It’s the Motor4Sports event in Woodland Hills, Calif. Since 2004, the auto show has collected over 15,000 presents as generous drivers dig deep to give back to kids who might not get a whole lot under their trees. It collected 2,500 toys its first year.

Fiat-Chrysler is just one of over a dozen sponsors of the event – other sponsors include Coastline Motorsport, The Auto Gallery of Los Angeles, and other local businesses. In a series of videos on its site, Motor4Toys founders talk about the experience of coming back every year to try to grow the charity event.

“I pumped it up as big as I could,” said event founder Dustin Troyan, recalling how he started the charity with a small auto show in back of a coffee shop. “I had no idea what to expect, and it was truly a miracle. The car community responded in such a way none of us expected.”

So what are other automakers doing for kids?

Although you might not see a lot TV coverage or items in your local newspaper, automakers are working behind the scenes to give kids a reason to feel glad at Christmastime. GM is doling out grants to charities like United Way and Toys for Tots in places like Atlanta, Ga., and Cleveland, Ohio, and holding charity dinners. Ford is donating vehicles for charity raffles and holding “charity test drives” in communities like Fond du Lac, Wisc. This year, Toyota is managing a “selfless selfie” program designed to funnel money to Boys and Girls clubs, and donating “the gift of efficiency” to various causes including a Harlem, N.Y., soup kitchen. Then there’s Subaru’s Share the Love, where each purchase generates $250 for charity. It’s all part of a greater effort to share the wealth and the joy this holiday season.

Another thing that car makers have done involves toning down the indulgence of holiday ads where somebody gets a new $30,000 or $40,000 car as a Christmas present. Lexus is one brand that likes to use this as its angle toward Christmastime. For example, this article last year from ConsumerAffairs columnist Mark Huffman lists Lexus as one of the usual suspects – but oddly enough, argues for the idea that shopping for a new car at Christmas can save consumers money overall. That is, if it’s a practical buy and not the kind of lavish gesture that it looks like on TV.

There are a couple of reasons why it might actually be a good idea to look to get a set of car keys under the Christmas tree. One is related to general retail trends — dealers might be looking to get their books looking better for 2015 with some last-minute sales, and that can put pressure on sales people to negotiate. But there’s also the issue of new inventory that is so important at dealerships (because unlike a lot of wares, cars take up an enormous amount of space!) As dealers get ready to take in new stock for 2016, they want more of last year’s models out of there!

Although Christmas shopping might make sense, a lot of people would rather not be told to buy, especially around Christmas, when holiday stress is already high. In Mediapost‘s 2011 report, some numbers and survey responses show how general target audiences are not reacting well to the “new car for Christmas” ads, and how they would rather see car companies adopt charity programs than promote “giving” by signing on the dotted line for a new car loan. For many of us, Christmas is a time to give, a time to think about the less privileged, instead of trying to up the ante on over-the-top extravagance. And it looks like car makers have gotten the message, as head offices look to develop prominent charity campaigns this season.

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Like classics? It’s always Throwback Thursday somewhere.