Auto industry analysts and officials say the rise in the prime rate will have little or no negative effect on low-interest sales incentive programs and new car sales.

Domestic auto makers anticipated an increase in interest rates and began securing long-term loans to back their incentive programs, which give car buyers rates as low as 1.9 percent on their loans.

"That kind of change {in the prime rate} really makes no difference as far as our new car sales are concerned," said Ford Motor Co. spokesman Tom Foote. "It would take a sustained rise in the prime rate to make a difference."

Don Hilty, economist for Chrysler Corp., said "I don't think it {the rise in the prime} is going to change our sales direction that much."

"We're going to continue to have incentives," he said. Rising interest rates "just emphasize that incentives will continue," Hilty said. The rise in prime "might even increase sales in the short term" by encouraging people to buy a car now "before commercial loan rates get even higher," Hilty said.

"A one-shot jump in the prime doesn't make much of a difference," said Alicia M. Scott, senior economist for Merrill Lynch Economics Inc.

"Then, again, if commercial loan rate continue to go up, that could make the incentives all the more attractive to buyers. But if there is a really big jump in prime, that would increase the cost of sales incentives programs, and companies like General Motors might start thinking twice about offering a real low incentive rate," Scott said.