Our favorite February discounts

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We bought fewer cars and trucks in January. A lot fewer made by General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co.

GM reduced the average discount on its cars and trucks to $2,365, the lowest in almost five years, according to Edmunds.com

Ford increased its incentives by $676 to $3,502 a vehicle.

So go figure.

The auto companies certainly are clearly struggling to figure out what gets us into their showrooms and what doesn't. That uncertainty is reflected in the rebates and cut-rate financing deals they're offering for February.

We've found some good deals on everything from the biggest, baddest pickups to the best-selling hybrid sedan. But knock-your-socks-off discounts still not as plentiful as they were last year.

Automakers lowered sticker prices and added lots of features that used to cost extra so 2007 models would sell without big rebates or cheap financing.

They seem to be sticking with that strategy even though there's growing evidence it's not working for them. Or at least not working for all of them.

Indeed, a top GM executive has publicly acknowledged that it probably "overcorrected" in it's effort to reduce incentives in January, so bigger discounts may be on the way this spring.

Take a look at our picks for the month of February.

The Saturn Ion is not one of our or anyone else's -- favorite compacts. Automotive News reports that it will be replaced this fall by a version of the Opel Vectra a compact GM designed and sells in Europe.

Although Car and Driver magazine calls the Ion "homely," it becomes better looking with 0% financing for 36 months. If you want to stretch your payments to four years, the rate goes up to 4.9%, but that is well below the national average of 7.81% that you might get from your bank.

With Ion prices starting at $13,800 less than half the average cost of a new car your payments will be very affordable.

This month also brings the first discounts we've seen on the world's best selling hybrid, the Toyota Prius sedan.

Prius sales haven't been the same since gas prices began tumbling back towards $2 gallon and the federal tax credit on all Toyota hybrids began to be phased out. The long, celebrity-filled waiting lists are gone and you should have no trouble finding a Prius waiting on the lot at most dealerships.

They can also offer you 0% financing for 24 months, 2.9% for 36 months, 3.9% for 48 months or a special lease -- $249 a month for 36 months with $2,798 due at signing.

The Ford Escape hybrid still has its full tax break and $3,000 cash back or 0% financing for up to 60 months will. If you want to lower your payments even more on this small sport-utility vehicle, you can get financing for six years at 1.9%, which is still really good.

At the other end of the gas-burning spectrum are good deals on a couple of larger SUVs:

Finally, DaimlerChrysler AG has clearly decided that it's got offer some great deals on the Dodge Ram 1500 full-size pickup if it's not going to lose lots of buyers to the redesigned Toyota Tundra and Chevrolet Silverado.

You can get $5,000 cash back on quad and regular cabs or cut-rate financing -- 0% for three years; 1.9% for four years or 2.9% for five years.

The award for the most creative promotion of the month goes to Buick and Tiger Woods. Buy any model this month and sign up for the Buick Clubhouse.

Perks include a chance to attend a Golf Fantasy Weekend hosted by Woods, the possibility of playing with a pro in a PGA Pro-Am event, or receiving VIP credentials for major tournaments.

Check back with us over the next couple of days and we should have some more favorites to share.

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