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As Sales Slow, Automakers Could be Heading for Incentives War

Good news for consumers could be a disaster for industry’s bottom line.

by on Feb.12, 2014

GM's move to offer more than $7,000 in incentives on its 2014 Silverado has made investors nervous about a possible incentive war.

When General Motors announced it would offer more than $7,000 in discounts on some of its big Silverado pickups the news sent many shoppers rushing to showrooms – but it also sent shivers racing down the spines of automotive investors increasingly worried that slowing sales may trigger the sort of incentive wars that trashed industry profits during the years leading up to the recent recession.

All the ingredients are there for a classic price war, automotive analysts warn. January auto sales took a sharp dip that may have been impacted by more than just the cold weather gripping the nation. In turn, there are now a growing number of vehicles piling up on dealer lots across the country, a situation that may force manufacturers to sharply increase current rebates and other incentives.

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“Rising inventory levels combined with several more waves of bad weather will result in a short-term spike in incentives,” said Eric Lyman, vice president of Editorial and Consulting for ALG, formerly known as the Automotive Leasing Guide. “The danger is that this could be the beginning of an escalating arms race for market share.” (more…)