Chrysler announced a new incentive program this week that will allow customers to lock in the price of gasoline at $2.99 a gallon for three...

Share story



DETROIT — Chrysler announced a new incentive program this week that will allow customers to lock in the price of gasoline at $2.99 a gallon for three years when purchasing most of the automaker’s new vehicles.

The automaker and its truck-heavy lineup have been hit hard as the price of gasoline has skyrocketed and buyers have shifted away from trucks to more fuel-efficient cars.

Chrysler executives say the new program is aimed at giving customers greater peace of mind regarding the volatility of gas prices — a major issue customers are bringing up to dealers across the country.

The so-called “Let’s Refuel America” campaign will be available at Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep dealers beginning today through June 2.

It includes most of the automaker’s vehicles, including its minivans, Dodge Ram pickup and Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV.

The price of self-serve regular unleaded gasoline averaged $3.62 nationally on Thursday, its highest recorded price, according to AAA. The national average on Tuesday was $3.61.

Chrysler’s major competitors, Ford, Toyota, General Motors and Honda all said they would not follow with their own subsidies, but Suzuki has made a similar offer in the U.S. with free gas for the summer.

Under Chrysler’s plan, the guaranteed price covers an annual allotment of gallons based on 12,000 miles divided by the average mileage per gallon of the purchased vehicle.

At $2.99 a gallon, drivers of the two-wheel-drive Dodge Ram 1500 pickup, which gets a combined 16 miles per gallon, according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates, could see a savings of $465 over 12,000 miles, based on the current average cost of gasoline.

As the price of gasoline increases, so do the savings.

“Anything that has gas in it gets attention nowadays from consumers, so it’s a smart strategy,” said Jesse Toprak, executive director of industry analysis at Edmunds.com.

Last month, Chrysler spent, on average, $3,795 in sales incentives of its vehicles, according to Edmunds.com.

So far this year, Chrysler’s U.S. sales are down 18 percent from last year. Chrysler trucks are down 23 percent. The Dodge Grand Caravan minivan, which was redesigned and launched late last summer, is down 37 percent so far this year.

Jack Nerad, executive market analyst for Irvine, Calif.-based Kelley Blue Book, said Chrysler’s brands have an image of big, tough trucks and large, fast cars, counter to the current market.

“In fact, their reputation is kind of going in the opposite direction. Big pickup trucks, V-8- powered American sedans,” he said. “They’re not exactly well-positioned for the current market.”

Information from Associated Press reporter Tom Krisher is included in this report.