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Automakers try to keep price increases quiet

With many consumers put off by the high cost of new cars and trucks, some automakers are becoming more secretive about their midyear price increases.

When Ford Motor Co. raised prices for its popular Explorer sport utility vehicle and redesigned F-150 pickup $200 to $425 this month, it told only dealers and made no public announcement.

Industry analysts say that was the latest example of an apparent trend among automakers toward stealth pricing at midyear.

"For the last two years, they've been fighting an uphill battle on the issue of affordability," said analyst Maryann Keller of Furman Selz in New York. "They believe that widespread publicity about price increases discourages people from coming into the showroom."

No. 1 General Motors didn't announce April increases on its Chevrolet Cavalier and Pontiac Sunfire. And No. 3 Chrysler Corp. is considering changing its longtime practice of announcing every increase, says spokesman Jim Crawford.

Lately, pricing has become a sensitive subject in Detroit as some automakers post record quarterly profits. "The public perception is it's just greedy," said Art Spinella of CNW Marketing Research.