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Auto Sales Climb, But Automakers Continue to Advertise Strong Incentives

2012 Honda CR-V

Automakers are selling a lot more cars than they have in years. That is certainly encouraging news because it shows that the economy is improving, unemployment rates are dropping and more consumers are qualifying for the credit they need to buy a new car. But do higher sales mean car shoppers will see fewer new car incentives in the coming months?

Bloomberg says that automakers sold more new cars than they have since 2009, with a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 14.2 million light vehicles in January. Ford sold 7 percent more vehicles in January 2012 than it did in January 2011. Chrysler posted the highest sales gain, saying that it sold 44 percent more vehicles than it did in January 2011. General Motors is the only U.S. automaker who posted a decline in January 2012 sales, with a 6 percent decrease compared with January 2011.

Japanese automakers Toyota and Honda saw an increase in January U.S. sales. Toyota reports that it sold 7.5 percent more vehicles in January 2012 compared with one year ago, while Honda has sold 8.8 percent more cars than it did a year ago.

Typically, when automakers are doing well, their new car incentives and deals aren’t so great, which means that you might encounter higher interest rates and lower cash back offers. Analysts at TrueCar.com are already seeing some drops in incentive spending. For example, Chrysler, who posted the highest January sales increase, spent an average of $3,414 in incentives per vehicle in January 2011, but in January 2012, Chrysler spent $181 less. GM spent $568 less per vehicle than it did one year ago.

Although automakers are slowly scaling back their incentives, you can still get a good deal on a new car in February. Honda, for example, is offering consumers a lot more discounts than it did one year ago. Many of its popular vehicles, such as the 2012 Honda CR-V and Honda Odyssey, have great lease deals that require no money down and no first month’s payment.

Ford’s incentives are also strong in February. You can get no-interest financing for five years plus $1,000 cash back on models like the 2012 Ford Fusion. If you’re interested in a European car, Volkswagen also has some good deals this month. Most 2011 Volkswagen models have no-interest financing for five to six years, and you can purchase models like the 2012 Passat at 1.9 percent for five years.

As you shop for a car this February, check out our Best New Car Deals and Best Lease Deals, where we highlight the best incentives in the industry. We’ve done the research for you, making it easier for you to find a good deal.

Shopping for a new car? Check out the U.S. News rankings of this year's best cars. You can also skip negotiating with a dealer by using our Best Price Program. Also, be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

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