SANTA MONICA, Calif. — estimated today that the average automotive manufacturer incentive in the U.S. was $2,914 per vehicle sold in February 2009, up $216, or 8.0 percent, from January 2009, and up $400, or 15.9 percent, from February 2008.

“Automakers are spending at remarkable levels, but it is worth noting that in February, 27 percent of new car intenders switched to a used vehicle at the dealership,” according to CEO Jeremy Anwyl. “This is up from 16 percent in recent months and highlights an opportunity for automakers struggling to make monthly sales.”

According to, combined incentives spending for domestic manufacturers averaged $3,991 per vehicle sold in February 2009, up from $3,518 in January 2009. From January 2009 to February 2009, European automakers increased incentives spending by $67 to $3,150 per vehicle sold; Japanese automakers decreased incentives spending by $77 to $1,698 per vehicle sold; and Korean automakers increased incentives spending by $102 to $3,031 per vehicle sold.

"The last time sales were at this level was in the early 1980s, when the country had 25 percent fewer licensed drivers," stated Jesse Toprak, executive director of industry analysis for "Back then, you could practically buy a new car for the amount that some of today’s automakers are spending on per-vehicle incentives.”

True Cost of Incentives for the "Big Six" Automakers

Automaker February 2009 January 2009 February 2008

Chrysler Group $5,566* $4,291 $3,520

Ford $3,430 $3,505 $3,317

General Motors $3,584 $3,138 $3,328

Honda $1,249 $1,374 $1,209

Nissan $2,509 $2,153 $2,159

Toyota $1,744 $1,994 $1,044

Industry Average $2,914 $2,698 $2,514

*Denotes a monthly record for the indicated automaker.

"Ironically, the word ‘incentive’ hardly applies to the money being spent by automakers right now," commented Edmunds' senior editor Michelle Krebs. "Consumers are simply not motivated to buy based on what they are seeing in the marketplace, and are instead waiting for a boost of economic confidence before making a major purchase."

In February 2009, the industry's aggregate incentive spending is estimated to have totaled approximately $1.9 billion, up 12.5 percent from January 2009. Chrysler, Ford and General Motors spent an aggregate of $1.2 billion, or 59.8 percent of the total; Japanese manufacturers spent $472 million, or 23.7 percent; European manufacturers spent $173 million, or 8.7 percent; and Korean manufacturers spent $154 million, or 7.8 percent.

Among vehicle segments, premium sport cars had the highest average incentives, $6,331 per vehicle sold, followed by luxury SUVs at $4,329. Subcompact cars had the lowest average incentives per vehicle sold, $762, followed by compact cars at $1,578. Analysis of incentives expenditures as a percentage of average sticker price for each segment shows large trucks averaged the highest, 13.1 percent, followed by large cars at 13.0 percent of sticker price. Subcompact cars averaged the lowest with 4.7 percent and premium luxury cars followed with 5.1 percent of sticker price.

Comparing all brands, in February Scion spent $70 followed by MINI at $86 per vehicle sold. At the other end of the spectrum, Chrysler spent the most, $6,061, followed by Dodge at $5,674 per vehicle sold. Relative to their vehicle prices, Chrysler and Dodge spent the most, 20.7 percent and 19.0 percent of sticker price, respectively; while MINI spent virtually nothing and Scion spent 0.4 percent.