Where's My Rebate? New Car Sales Up, Incentives Down

NEW YORK (MainStreet)—You can kick the tires, but don't expect a kickback. As new car sales continue to improve, manufacturers are offering fewer incentives to potential buyers.

Light vehicle sales for May, including fleet purchases, are expected to be up 8.5% compared to this month a year ago -- and accelerating -- with a 12.1% increase from April.

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"Full size truck sales continue to gain momentum in May, and we expect the segment to post a 22% increase compared to the nearly 9% industry increase," says Jesse Toprak, senior analyst for TrueCar.com, which released the forecast. "Stability in the industry is now the norm, which is a positive for automakers as it results in the ability to optimize production levels, therefore improving profitability."

Meanwhile, incentives -- such as rebates and discounts -- are declining, down 3% since last year, averaging $2,482 per vehicle.

"Incentive spending has continued to decline in May, painting an even better picture of profitability for automakers," says analyst Kristen Andersson. "In May, Nissan was the only major automaker to decrease incentive spending, post a double digit sales increase and gain a full percentage point of market share compared to last year, due to continued interest in the redesigned Altima."

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Leading the field in forecasted sales growth this month compared to May of last year are Nissan (+25.4%), Ford (+20.1%) and Volkswagen (+9.4%).

Chrysler is getting lapped, as the only major manufacturer with projected lower monthly sales (-6.2%).

If you're shopping for a new car, the manufacturers offering the highest average incentives this month are GM ($3,254), Chrysler ($3,223) and Ford ($2,990). Nissan has put the brakes on its incentive spending, down 34.2% from May 2012, offering an average per-vehicle incentive of only $1,821. This month's lowest average incentive being offered by the major manufacturers is from Hyundai/Kia at $1,405.

--Written by Hal M. Bundrick for MainStreet

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