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Despite cuts, GM still leads incentive spending
General Motors Co. slashed the amount of discounts slapped on the hoods of vehicles last month but still led incentives offered by Detroit's Big Three automakers, who spent a combined $1 billion in January, research shows. GM spent an average $3,103 on incentives per vehicle in January, $721 more than the industry average, with the biggest expense coming from peddling castoff brands Saturn and Hummer, according to consumer Web site Edmunds.com.

GM Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Edward Whitacre Jr. has complained that GM spends more than other automakers and said reducing that expense was among his top priorities. In December, the month Whitacre assumed CEO duties following Fritz Henderson's forced resignation, GM outspent the next closest competitor, Ford Motor Co., by almost $1,000. 

Automakers have relied on costly incentives to maintain or grow market share, but GM wants to wean itself off the "incentive drug," said Susan Docherty, GM's vice president of sales, service and marketing.

"We want to make sure as we look forward, that we're using incentives on a judicious basis," she told reporters and analysts this week.

One example: GM unveiled a $1,000 incentive late last month to convince Toyota Motor Co. owners to trade in their Japanese model.

"January incentives were not particularly generous or compelling -- until some automakers began trying to conquest unsettled Toyota owners and shoppers late in the month," said Jessica Caldwell, director of industry analysis for Edmunds.com.

Despite the Toyota offer, GM cut incentive spending by almost $900 per vehicle from December, far above the industry-wide average decline of $160, according to Edmunds.com.

"We think we kind of bucked the trend," GM spokesman Tom Henderson said.

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