Car manufacturers prefer giving these "hidden" incentives because it helps prevent damage to the brand's image, and helps keep resale values higher than they otherwise would be.
In recent months, stair-step incentives have been implemented by the following manufacturers: Honda, GM, Chrysler and Nissan.
In an effort to cash in on these bonuses, some dealers are willing to gamble and sell cars for up to $2,000 below cost in hopes of hitting their sales targets. Here's a quote from Automotive News describing the situation - "Dealers gunning for their sales bogeys in the final days of a program often slash prices well below cost - willing to sustain, say, $30,000 in losses in hopes of a $100,000 volume-based bonus at the end - and drag down other dealers' prices in the process".
If you're willing to comparison shop and get price bids from multiple dealers - especially near the end of the month, you stand a great chance of buying a car for below dealer cost.
I recommend you start with the free CarWoo Deal Finder which allows you to get multiple price bids without having to visit dealers.
Here's a sampling of what's currently being offered: GM is offering dealers $100 to $750 in bonuses for each vehicle they sell above a certain threshold. The models eligible for the bonuses include the Chevrolet Cruze, Malibu, Equinox, Traverse, and Silverado, plus all Buick models.
Honda, in an effort to clear 2012 models off the lots is offering $100 to $500 in bonuses on the Accord.
Chrysler is offering $200 to $600 for each vehicle sold once the dealers hit a certain sales threshold.
Nissan is paying dealers $200 to $800 per vehicle for reaching three different sales goals.
Use the free CarWoo Deal Finder to take advantage of these hidden incentive opportunities.