Automakers spent less on incentives in April than they did in March and as a result, sales dipped from March to April, though industry sales still are running well ahead  – by 21 percent – of last March, according to Edmunds.com’s forecast.

“In March (2010), incentives really helped boost car sales,” observed Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds.com’s director of Industry Analysis. She noted Toyota led the industry with unprecedented incentives in March that included zero-percent financing and discounted leases.

“In April, incentives averaged nearly $200 less per vehicle industry-wide,” noted Caldwell. “And sales fell along with incentives.”

For April, Edmunds.com forecasts the industry will sell 988,100 light vehicles, a 20.9-percent increase from April 2009 and a 7.1 percent decrease from March 2010. That would put April’s Seasonally Adjusted Annualised Rate (SAAR) at 11.2 million vehicles, down from 11.8 in March but vastly improved from 9.2 million SAAR in March 2009.

“The economy is showing signs of recovery but consumers are still wary, so today car-shopping is largely about bargain-hunting,” noted Edmunds.com CEO Jeremy Anwyl. “Traditionally, summer discounts are worth waiting for but inventory may be spottier than usual this year. The next round of incentives may provide the best opportunity to pick up a great deal.”