All I want for Christmas is a ... car?

John Egan

This time of year, ads for new cars flood the airwaves. Automakers are hoping you'll put a new car under the Christmas tree for a loved one - husband, wife, daughter, son.

But how many of us actually want a car for Christmas? To my surprise, 65 percent of Americans hope to receive a car as a gift during the 2012 holiday season, according to a poll conducted for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. Another eye-opening statistic: 17 percent of Americans said they've given a car to someone as a present.

Mitch Bainwol, president and CEO of the manufacturers alliance, said in a news release: "Our consumer polling shows that many Americans have their noses pressed against the front windows of car dealerships, hoping someone thinks they have been good this year."

I feel left out. No one's ever given me a car as a gift. Nor have I ever given one as a gift. But I'm not alone. Fifty-one percent of consumers said no one in their lives would give them a car as a gift. Of those who said they might receive a car from a loved one, the most likely gift giver was a spouse (23 percent), followed by parents (8 percent), children (5 percent), girlfriend or boyfriend (4 percent), a very good friend (2 percent) or a boss (1 percent).

If I were to be lucky enough to receive a car, I would want to help pick it out, as 63 percent of Americans said they do. In the poll, 25 percent said they'd prefer to be surprised. Sorry, but I don't want that kind of surprise. It's awkward to return a car that you don't like. And it's certainly not as simple as taking back a tacky sweater from Aunt Jennie.

And if I were hoping to get a car for Christmas, I don't know that I'd go to the lengths that many people do to get the message across. In the poll, 25 percent of people would frequently mention how old their car is (isn't that nagging?), while 17 percent would drop hints while new-car ads are being shown on TV (maybe interruption a commercial isn't so bad).

Oh, and here are the ways I won't be surprised with a four-wheeled gift: wrapped car keys under the tree (28 percent hope for this), car in the driveway with a large bow on it (26 percent) or trip to the dealership (19 percent).

Obviously, a fair number of Americans will be finding car keys under the tree, as December has been the most popular month for car sales over the past two years.

"The average age of vehicles on U.S. roads is a historic high of 11 years. So we see pent-up demand for new vehicles, and when this is coupled with low credit rates, auto sales have been more robust than the general economic recovery," Bainwol said.

Sadly, my personal economy isn't robust enough to give a new car as a gift. And no one I know has a personal economy that's robust enough to give me a car.For more information about counterfeit air bags, visit