Automaker incentives sink to five-year low

Auto sales have been on an upward trajectory for many months, and the latest data shows that cash on the hood isn't one of the reasons. According to Automotive News, incentive spending was at a five-year low in April, down 14 percent to an average of $2,320 per vehicle.

had the lowest incentives among the top six automakers in the United States, with an average of $1,885 per unit. Nissan discounts dropped the most on a percentage basis, down 33 percent to $1,998. Honda actually increased spending to $2,187, bucking the industry trend. Buyers of Japanese autos can likely expect the dropping incentives to continue in the short term, as supply issues mean that fewer vehicles will be available on dealer lots.

As you may have expected, Ford's strong product lineup has helped the automaker cut spending by 20 percent to $2,399 – the lowest among the Detroit Three. Chrysler was next with an average rebate of $2,806. General Motors came in last at $3,068 per unit, which is still down 8.1 percent from April 2010.

So what does this mean for car buyers? We're guessing that incentives will continue to remain where they're at, or perhaps even drop further in the months ahead. After all, April's adjusted sales rate came in at 13.2 million for 2011, with no hint of slowing down, and analysts have expected 12.7 to 13 million sales for the year. About the only thing that could change that right now is the continuing rise of gas prices, which is a real possibility.

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