SANTA MONICA, Calif. — estimated that the average automotive manufacturer incentive in the U.S. was $2,946 per vehicle sold in May 2009, down $111, or 3.6 percent, from April 2009, but up $622, or 26.8 percent, from May 2008.

According to, combined incentives spending for domestic manufacturers averaged $3,766 per vehicle sold in May 2009, down from $3,990 in April 2009. From April 2009 to May 2009, European automakers increased incentives spending by $214 to $3,823 per vehicle sold; Japanese automakers increased incentives spending by $171 to $1,907 per vehicle sold – a record high; and Korean automakers decreased incentives spending by $533 to $2,894 per vehicle sold.

"The industry is chaotic right now and every automaker is struggling to find something that works," stated Jesse Toprak, executive director of industry analysis for "Many of the brands owned by bankrupt companies are drawing an impressive amount of attention from bargain-hunters, but the rest of the automakers have their work cut out for them.”

True Cost of Incentives for the Top Seven Automakers

Automaker May 2009 April 2009 May 2008

Chrysler $4,159 $4,383 $3,630

Ford $3,570 $3,618 $3,190

General Motors $3,783 $4,107 $3,309

Honda $1,626* $1,480 $1,145

Hyundai $2,894 $3,427 $1,973

Nissan $2,790* $2,767 $1,989

Toyota $1,755 $1,634 $1,034

Industry Average $2,946 $3,057 $2,324

* Denotes a record

In May 2009, the industry's aggregate incentive spending is estimated to have totaled approximately $2.6 billion, up 4.9 percent from April 2009. Chrysler, Ford and General Motors spent an aggregate of $1.4 billion, or 55.2 percent of the total; Japanese manufacturers spent $695 million, or 26.5 percent; European manufacturers spent $296 million, or 11.3 percent; and Korean manufacturers spent $183 million, or 6.9 percent.

Among vehicle segments, premium sport cars had the highest average incentives, $6,865 per vehicle sold, followed by large SUVs at $4,267. Subcompact cars had the lowest average incentives per vehicle sold, $1,096, followed by compact cars at $2,117. Analysis of incentives expenditures as a percentage of average sticker price for each segment shows large cars averaged the highest, 13.0 percent, followed by large trucks at 12.4 percent of sticker price. Premium luxury cars averaged the lowest at 4.6 percent and subcompact cars followed at 6.9 percent of sticker price.

The large truck segment is a particularly interesting case. In a story entitled “Take My Pick-Up – Please,” Edmunds' editor Bill Visnic recently reported, "The economic meltdown and $4 gasoline conspired to make 2008 a lousy year for large pickups, but the shriveled numbers for 2009 are making last year's sales look like a comparative bonanza."

Comparing all brands, in May Scion spent $225 followed by MINI at $582 per vehicle sold. At the other end of the spectrum, Mercedes-Benz spent the most, $6,069, followed by HUMMER at $5,902 per vehicle sold. Relative to their vehicle prices, Pontiac and Saturn spent the most, 16.7 percent and 15.5 percent of sticker price, respectively; while Scion spent 1.3 and MINI spent 2.7 percent.