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Why Surging Auto Sales May Not Be Such a Good Thing

Althea Chang
Big Data Download

General Motors (GM) and Ford (F) may have sold more vehicles than their rivals during the month of March, but those companies aren't the most popular among consumers, at least according to Yahoo! search trends.

Toyota (TM) and Honda (HMC) outranked Ford and Chevy as the top car names among web searchers in the 30 days ending March 21. Notably, BMW made it to the top five most-searched car brands, in part because of its recent push to appeal to the under-45 age group, said auto analyst Art Spinella at CNW Marketing Research.

Web searchers have also gotten more interested in Subaru in the last year. Searches for that brand are up 8 percent in the past month compared with a year ago, in part because of searches related to the company's popular ads, according to Yahoo!.

But there's more at play than advertising when it comes to winning over consumers. Strong March sales were influenced by serious incentives offered to shoppers by manufacturers and dealers.

The average incentive offered by manufacturers was about $4,162, and the average dealer incentive was about $1,305 in February, Spinella noted in a recent report.

Spinella said incentives were nearly 16 percent higher this past February compared with a year ago, and that's bad news for the industry's bottom line. Among all automakers, the value of incentives in February alone added up to $4.4 billion.