DETROIT -- No matter how you slice them, prices of new cars and light trucks sold in the United States have risen in the last 12 months.
Sticker prices for 2005 model year vehicles sold in the United States rose 2.05 percent over 2004 models, according to an Automotive News analysis.
The analysis of 1,560 models that account for 99.6 percent of U.S. sales shows that sticker prices have risen an average of $563 since May 2004.
And Edmunds.com reports that incentives have increased an average of $59 for the industry; $563 minus $59 is $504, which we'll call the net rise in sticker prices after incentives are figured in.
But don't forget the third leg of the triangle. Edmunds.com finds that the transaction price of new vehicles is up $482 in the past year, almost the same as the sticker price.
The transaction price is the amount of money that actually changes hands - by cash or through financing - when a new vehicle is purchased.
The higher transaction price means that Americans are buying more car per car and more truck per truck, either through additional optional equipment or the choice of a higher-priced vehicle.
Rebates go hand-in-hand with transaction prices. The higher the rebate, the more the consumer can afford to pay.
Or it may mean the purchase of new instead of used.
Higher boost than in 2004
How much has the price of new cars and trucks increased in the last 12 months? Balancing the three elements - sticker price, rebate and transaction price - the answer is about $500.
All figures in this report are sales-weighted by brand, by corporation, by country and for the industry as a whole.
In the sticker-price analysis, Automotive News found that prices of Big 3 makes have risen an average of $533, or 1.9 percent in the 2005 model year. The Japanese played in the same ballpark as the Big 3. Japanese cars and trucks went up an average of $501, or 2.04 percent.
Elsewhere, the increases were varied and diverse. Korean cars and trucks rose $723, or 4.22 percent; Swedish, $162, or 0.46 percent; British, $784, or 2.03 percent and German, $1,650, or 4.43 percent. The German figure is high because four of the five German makes - Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche - are luxury brands, and those vehicles always go up more than the norm.
The industrywide average of $563, or 2.05 percent, is higher than the $440, or 1.64 percent for the 2004 model year.
Toyota, Nissan up a heap
The overall incentive figure didn't change much during the year, but there were interesting shifts within the various groups.
Edmunds.com said the industrywide figure for May was $2,566, up $59 from the year-ago month, and the Big 3 average rose only $63, to $3,524.
The Chrysler group is making much greater use of incentives; its May average was $3,884, Edmunds said, up nearly 20 percent over last year's $3,248. Ford Motor Co., at $2,939, was up just $12.
But General Motors, surprisingly, was down. Its average incentive in May was $3,729, which was $194 less than a year earlier. So GM is serious about cutting back? Not really. For June, GM is offering the employee discount (3 percent to 5 percent of invoice) to all customers, plus the stated rebate. Look for GM's figure to increase significantly this month.
One of the three leading Japanese sellers shows a decline in incentive spending. Edmunds said Honda Division put out $470 per vehicle in May, down from $700 a year ago.
But Toyota Division and Nissan Division are looking more and more like American producers. Toyota's incentives jumped 53.9 percent, to $1,194 per vehicle, and Nissan's climbed 55.7 percent, to $1,844.
In other words, Toyota and Nissan are spending half again as much to move the metal as they were at this time last year.
But they are a long way from the Big 3. Toyota is putting out about one-third as much per vehicle as GM, Ford and Chrysler, and Nissan is giving away about half as much.
The transaction price is the bottom line. In May, the average transaction price for the market as a whole was $27,360, according to Edmunds, which was $482 more than a year ago. The hike was 1.8 percent, compared with the bump of 2.05 percent in sticker prices disclosed in the Automotive News analysis.
You may e-mail John K. Teahen Jr. at