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Report: U.S. auto incentives eased in February

From Reuters| March 02,2007

Sales incentives offered to U.S. new-car buyers declined in February despite steeper discounting by Ford Motor Co., according to a report issued today.

Edmunds.com, an auto industry-tracking Web site, said the average manufacturer incentive on cars and light trucks sold in the United States was $2,253 in February, down 4 percent from a year earlier.

Sales incentives are widely tracked as an indication of the relative profitability of various automakers and the pressure they face to move inventory.

On an industry-wide basis, the total sales discounts amounted to $2.7 billion for February with the U.S. automakers accounting for 70 percent of that total, Edmunds said.

Ford's average incentives rose 9 percent in the month to $3,084, closing the gap with the Chrysler group, which has led the industry in discounting since last year.

Incentives on offer from the Chrysler group dropped 6 percent with average spending per vehicle of $3,526, Edmunds said.

General Motors rolled out a program of zero-percent financing and up to $500 bonus cash on most 2006 and 2007 models in February after a 20 percent drop in January sales.

Edmunds said GM's average incentives increased slightly for February, to $2,693 on average from $2,638 a year earlier.

Among Japanese manufacturers, Honda Motor Co. showed a sharp increase in average incentives, which rose to $1,059, from $335 a year earlier, according to the report.

Honda offered sales incentives on the outgoing model of its Accord sedan in February, including a lease deal of $199 per month for 36 months.

By vehicle segment, the heaviest discounting in February was on large SUVs at $3,477 followed by large pickups at $3,377, Edmunds said.

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