Car incentive drew attention in Libertyville

A $100 voucher didn't necessarily knock would-be car buyers off the fence, but the program launched last summer by Libertyville village leaders is being considered a success.

With final figures just in, the consensus is that while the rebate may not have been the determining factor in a sale, it drew would-be customers to town and united dealers for the first time.

"I don't know you can say it made somebody buy a car but it may have made a difference where they bought a vehicle," said Heather Rowe, the village's economic development coordinator.

Publicity for the program also focused attention on village dealerships, which made it worth the gamble, said Mayor Terry Weppler, who proposed the program.

"I look at this as an investment," he said. "If nothing else, the publicity it got for our auto dealers was tremendous."

By committing $65,000, the village was among the first entities in Illinois to offer such an incentive. Each of the 13 dealers were given 50 vouchers valued at $100 each.

Customers who leased or purchased a new car by Sept. 7 were given a voucher to be redeemed by the village in the form of $25 gift cards good only at local businesses.

Figures provided by the village showed that most of the available 650 vouchers were distributed and that many dealers ran out of their allotments.

Only about half the vouchers were redeemed, however.

All told, the village issued $34,100 in gift certificates. About 86 percent, or $29,000, was spent at local businesses.

Sunset Foods was the top recipient with 169 gift certificates redeemed, followed by Jimmy's Charhouse with 131 and Cafe Pyrenees with 103.

"It really spread the benefit of the program throughout the community," said Rowe.

Car sales account for about 60 percent of all sales tax revenue received by Libertyville. But overall receipts, including those for autos, have been dropping for years. Village officials tried the voucher as a local economic stimulus of sorts.

Another plus, according to the village, was the program cemented cooperation among the dealerships, who for the first time united in an association for marketing purposes.

The dealers group is expected to discuss the impact of the village program in coming weeks.

"All in all, we thought it was very successful," said Glenn Bockwinkel, general manager of Acura of Libertyville and head of the dealers group.

"It could have been more successful with a higher dollar amount but it was a start."

Funds for the program were set aside after the current budget was approved, meaning the expense will have to come out of village reserves.

"Being the first to do it in Illinois got us tremendous publicity you would not get otherwise," Weppler said.