Autovibes, a monthly automotive study from Harris Interactive and Kelley Blue Book tracking consumer views on vehicles, claims that buyer dependency on incentives has risen as much as they have.

Exactly half of US adults surveyed in the market to buy or lease a new car within the next 12 months said that they were not likely to purchase a new car in the absence of incentives, rebates or special financing.

Nearly 40% were heavily dependent on incentives (timing is affected and they would not buy a new car in their absence).

Both of these measures are at their highest levels ever, according to the survey.

Whether it's petrol prices or just the desire to go 'green', SUV sales have fallen off and manufacturers are implementing frighteningly large incentives on this vehicle segment as it is the last bastion of profitability, Charlie Vogelheim of Kelley Blue Book said.

"Incentives are an integral part of the process now and they are drawing people into the marketplace that don't necessarily need a car. It's putting many buyers upside down in their loans or has them counting on hefty rebates to get them out of an upside down loan situation."