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New Cars Prices Head South, Too

Like used cars, new cars are getting cheaper.

For the first time in 20 years, several automakers have actually cut prices on some models.

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When the bestselling Toyota Camry was revamped last year, prices were $700 lower than in 1996. Honda cut the price of its four-cylinder 1998 Accords by $1,400. And one Mercedes-Benz model dropped $10,000 in 1997.

Many other makers have added standard equipment without raising prices.

And cash rebates on new cars are the highest they've ever been - averaging about $1,500.

Competition is driving the prices down.

In the market for a mid-size sedan? No fewer than 45 cars may fit your bill.

Around the world, automakers can build almost twice as many cars as people buy. Asian consumers were supposed to pick up the slack. Instead, automakers cut prices.

And as used cars get more reliable, they lure away new-car buyers.

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"The big picture is, there's a lot more used product out there driving prices down," says Ron Pinelli, president of Auto Data, a research firm in Woodcliff Lake, N.J.

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