Average spending by carmakers on consumer incentives in the hyper-competitive US market was up only slightly last month, an industry research group said on Wednesday.

According to a Reuters report, Autodata said the average incentive from Detroit’s traditional Big Three edged up to $US3,919 per vehicle, a marginal increase of just over $100 from January.

Of the six largest carmakers, General Motors once again offered the largest average incentive at $4,211 per vehicle, but that was a wafer-thin rise of just $22 from January, the news agency noted.

DaimlerChrysler‘s Chrysler division, which has posted year-over-year US sales gains for the past five months, spent an average of $4,007 per vehicle on incentives in February, up from $3,904 in January, Reuters said.

Ford, which has posted lower US sales for five consecutive months, placed a distant third in February incentives spending with an average of $3,443, which was up about 7% from January, according to the report.

Reuters noted that industry pundits have likened spending on interest-free loans, cash rebates and other incentives for new vehicle buyers to drug addiction, since they have a dangerous potential to mushroom out of control and destroy profits, though they also prop up the sales volumes that mass market carmakers need to keep their plants running at or near full capacity.

According to the report, Nissan, which posted a huge 46% jump in its US sales in February, led U.S. monthly incentives spending by Japanese car makers at an average of $1,688 per vehicle, down a notch from an average of $1,704 per vehicle in January.

Reuters said spending by Toyota was essentially unchanged, at an average of $859 per vehicle, but Honda ratcheted up incentives by about 33% to an average of $864 per vehicle.

Average spending by European brands totaled $1,801 per vehicle in February, a 12% increase from January, Reuters added.