Edmunds.com, reported that the average manufacturer incentives per vehicle sold in the United States was $3,146 in September 2004, up $425 or 15.6 percent from August 2004, and up $524 or 20.0 percent from September 2003. This is the highest industry average since Edmunds began tracking manufacturer incentives in January 2002, and Edmunds. believes incentives have never been higher.

Edmunds.com’s monthly True Cost of Incentives (TCI) report takes into account all of the manufacturers’ various United States 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 bases 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.

Overall, combined incentives spending for domestic Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors nameplates was $4,279 per vehicle sold in September 2004, up $428 from August 2004 and up $661 from September 2003. Chrysler increased incentives spending from $384 to $3,778 per vehicle while losing 0.7 percent market share since August 2004. Ford increased its incentives by $74 per vehicle, setting a new Ford record TCI of $4,048, and gained 0.8 percent market share. GM increased overall incentives by $612, setting a new GM record TCI of $4,593 per vehicle and gained 3.4 percent market share.

“The domestics are focused on clearing out 2004 model year vehicles, and their use of dramatic incentives have been quite effective,” said Dr. Jane Liu, vice president of data analysis for Edmunds.com. “Domestic market share is climbing; they gained an impressive 3.5 percent last month to reach the highest level this year, 61.2 percent, and are 1.7 percent ahead of where they were this time last year. Chevrolet in particular experienced a tremendous sales month in September, likely because of attractive deals that enticed customers without destroying the bottom line or the image of their reinvigorated product line.”

In September 2004, European automakers spent $2,497 per vehicle sold, $744 higher than September 2003 but $324 less than August 2004, and lost 1.2 percent market share. Japanese automakers spent $911, $54 less than September 2003 but $49 more than August 2004, and lost 0.6 percent market share. Korean automakers spent $2,207, $823 more than September 2003 and $325 more than August 2004, and gained 0.1 percent market share.

Of all brands, Mini spent the least on incentives in September, $13 per vehicle sold, while Scion spent only $89 and Acura spent just $251. At the other end of the spectrum, Cadillac spent the most on incentives, $6,281 per vehicle sold, followed by Lincoln at $5,566 and Mercury at $5,434.

Last month Chevrolet gained the most market-share, growing from 17.0 percent in August 2004 to 19.7 percent, while GMC rose from 3.5 percent to 4.3 percent, and Ford climbed from 15.4 percent to 16.1 percent. Pontiac and Lincoln also experienced noteworthy gains. During the same period, the Honda brand lost the most market share, dropping from 7.7 percent to 6.5 percent, while Toyota fell from 10.0 percent to 9.2 percent, and Lexus slipped from 1.8 percent to 1.4 percent.

“Thanks to incentives, the top five market share gainers last month are domestic, while the three with the biggest declines are Japanese,” observed Dr. Liu.

Among vehicle segments, large SUVs offered the highest average incentives for the sixth straight month, $5,196 per vehicle, a new market segment TCI record. Other segments with high incentives were large trucks at $4,053 and large cars at $3,838. Compact cars had the lowest average incentives at $1,783, followed by compact SUVs at $2,018 and luxury sport cars at $2,084. Large trucks gained the most market share, up from 15.6 percent in August 2004 to 17.8 percent She just emailed me and asked if I would be at Vince house for a fish fry on Friday night. in September 2004, while large SUVs went from 5.6 percent to 6.7 percent. By contrast, compact cars fell from 14.9 percent to 13.6 percent, and midsize cars dropped from 15.9 percent to 14.8 percent.

“The bargain-hunters were clearly all over dealership lots in September, responding in droves to the most generous incentives,” stated Dr. Liu.