| -

SANTA MONICA, Calif. — Edmunds.com totaled up incentives spent by automakers in March and found the aggressive offerings from Toyota pushed Japanese manufacturers into unprecedented territory.

"Incentives helped lift sales to its highest level since Cash for Clunkers," explained Jessica Caldwell, director of industry analysis for Edmunds.com.

"And this month will be the highest ever for average combined incentive spending for Japanese automakers, including a record high month for Toyota," Caldwell continued.

Site analysts calculated that Toyota spent $2,256 per vehicle sold in March. That figure pushed the month total for Japanese automakers to $922 million, about 30.5 percent of the industry total.

Toyota's incentive average was a little bit lower than what Edmunds.com determined as the average figure for each vehicle sold in March. The site said the average manufacturer incentive was $2,742 per vehicle sold last month. It marked a $100 rise, or 3.8 percent climb, from the figure reported in February.

However, the incentive figure was down $423, or 13.4 percent, from March 2009, which the site indicated was a record high for the industry.

According to Edmunds.com, combined incentives spending for domestic manufacturers averaged $3,413 per vehicle sold in March, down from $3,463 in February.

Comparing February to March, analysts indicated European automakers increased incentives spending by $151 to $2,763 per vehicle sold, while Japanese OEMs boosted incentives spending by $224 to $2,058. They also mentioned that Korean manufacturers pushed incentive spending by $349 to $1,997 per vehicle sold.

Looking at the industry sum for March, Edmunds.com found that incentives totaled approximately $3.07 billion, a jump of 49.4 percent from the previous month. Domestic OEMs Chrysler, Ford and General Motors spent 54.8 percent of the total, about $1.7 billion.

Following the Japanese record-setting total were European manufacturers at $262 million. Korean companies spent $183 million on incentives.

When reviewing vehicle segments, the site indicated that large trucks had the highest average incentive at $4,290 per unit sold. Following these were incentives for large SUVs at $3,843.

Trending in the opposite direction, Edmunds.com found that subcompact cars had the lowest average incentives per vehicle sold at $1,294. Next on its chart were sport cars at $1,416.

The site's analysis of incentives expenditures as a percentage of average sticker price for each segment showed that large trucks averaged the highest at 12.6 percent. The analysis said large cars were next at 11.9 percent.

The segments with the lowest percentages were premium sport cars at 2.7 percent and sport cars at 4.4 percent.

Moving on to a deeper discussion about incentives given by brand, Scion and Mini handed out the smallest incentives in March at $333 and $697 per vehicle sold, respectively. At the other end of the spectrum, the site determined that Lincoln spent the most at $5,205, followed by BMW at $4,794.

Relative to their vehicle prices, analysts calculated that Saturn and Chrysler spent the most at 15.0 percent and 13.7 percent of sticker price, respectively. They said Porsche spent just 1.3 percent and Scion only 1.9 percent.

"April is typically a slower sales month than March, and we're already getting signal that some automakers will extend their incentives," Caldwell pointed out.

"The question is will they be effective. The trend we saw in March was that incentives were very effective early in the month but far less so by month's end," she continued.

Edmunds.com reiterated that its monthly True Cost of Incentives report takes into account all automakers' various U.S. incentives programs, including subvented interest rates and lease programs, as well as cash rebates to consumers and dealers.

To ensure the greatest possible accuracy, Edmunds.com stressed that it based its calculations on sales volume, including the mix of vehicle makes and models for each month, as well as on the proportion of vehicles for which each type of incentive was used. 

 True Cost of Incentives for the Top Seven Automakers
 Automaker    March 2010  February 2010 March 2009 
 Chrysler Group  $3,359  $3,618  $4,889
 Ford  $3,304  $3,288  $3,673
 General Motors  $3,519  $3,509  $4,772*
 Honda  $1,740  $1,420  $1,334
 Hyundai   $1,997  $1,648  $3,504*
 Nissan  $2,403  $2,471  $2,234
 Toyota  $2,256*  $1,881  $1,565
 Industry Average  $2,742  $2,642  $3,165*
 * Indicates Record