DETROIT -- The purchase of an average-priced new vehicle took 23.9 weeks of median family income in the first quarter, according to the Auto Affordability Index compiled by Comerica Bank.

The latest reading is down 0.6 weeks from the fourth quarter and 1.1 weeks compared to a year ago. Including finance charges, the total cost of buying an average-priced light vehicle was $28,389 in the first quarter.

"It's a buyers market and the producers are being forced to offer bigger discounts in one form or another," said Dana Johnson, Chief Economist at Comerica Bank. "Buyers also are holding down their driving costs by choosing smaller, more fuel-efficient cars. That is reflected in the fact that the average amount spent on a new car excluding financing costs was only $24,627, the lowest quarterly average in 2 1/2 years."