February’s incentives spending on new car sales in the United States increased month on month but still came in at the lowest of any February since 2003, according to Edmunds.com, which said that the average per vehicle last month was US$2,193, up 2.4% over January but down 14.5% from February 2011.

“The decreased incentives spending across the industry so far in 2012 really underscores the healthy performance we’ve been seeing at dealerships nationwide,” said senior analyst Jessica Caldwell.

“Car manufacturers know that consumers who deferred purchases in 2011 are still coming back to the market and by stepping back the discounts, they stand to pocket bigger profits. The first quarter of 2012 is shaping up quite well for automakers.”

Of the top six automakers, only Ford increased incentives spending year on year in February - up 1.8% to $2,827. Toyota had the biggest annual drop, cutting incentives by nearly one-third to $1,431 per vehicle compared with February 2011.