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US auto sales cooled at the start of 2017 as incentives climbed and mid-size cars proved a drag, Wards Auto said on Wednesday.

The annualised seasonally adjusted light vehicle sales (SAAR) came in at 17.5m units, compared with 17.8m in the year ago period and down 4.5 per cent sequentially, with analysts attributing the slide partly to a pull-ahead effect from December.

Light-vehicle sales slid 1.7 per cent from a year ago to 1.14m units, according to Wards data, resulting in a daily sales rate of 47,408 units that was slower than the 48,226 unit recorded in the year-ago period.

The report showed that incentives were up 22 per cent from a year ago, while the average transaction price climbed a modest 1.4 per cent. And mid-size cars in particular suffered, with nearly every automaker recording a double-digit loss in the segment.

“Dealers were reporting light showroom traffic in January, so the fact the industry put more incentive programs in place compared to last month is not surprising,” Brad Korner, general manager for AIS Rebates. “Traditionally, January is a heavy month for incentives. It’s auto show season in many markets so we see multiple, short-term incentives offered to help stimulate sales.”

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