DETROIT — Chrysler is offering to subsidize the cost of gasoline for car and truck buyers, but its biggest rivals — General Motors, Toyota and Ford — said Tuesday they have no plans to match the incentive.
The Auburn Hills, Mich., maker of Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep announced an offer that caps the price of gasoline at $2.99 a gallon for three years for people who buy or lease new vehicles from today through June 2. The offer covers most of its models and is based on 12,000 miles of driving per year and the vehicle's government fuel economy rating.
Customers will get a card for buying gas that is linked to their own charge account, Chrysler said. The customer will be billed $2.99 a gallon, and Chrysler will pay the rest.
Actual savings depend on what happens to gas prices during the next three years, but based on the U.S. average price of about $3.61 a gallon, someone buying a 2008 Dodge Durango four-wheel-drive sport utility vehicle with a 5.7-liter
V-8 engine would save about $414 per year, based on the Durango's 18-miles-per-gallon highway rating.
Japanese automaker Suzuki Motor Corp. has made a similar offer in the United States, with free gas for the summer.
General Motors Corp. tried a gas-payment promotion two years ago in Florida and California with little impact on sales, company spokesman John McDonald said Tuesday.
GM instead is focusing on making vehicles more fuel efficient because that's what customers are demanding, McDonald said.
Ford Motor Co. spokesman Jim Cain said the company has tried similar programs regionally but also has decided to focus on more efficient engines and transmissions and other measures.
"We know that fuel economy is important to consumers," he said. "It'll be important whether gas is $2.99 a gallon or $4.99 a gallon."
But Chrysler is hoping its move will boost sales of its vehicles, which dropped nearly 18 percent from January through April when compared with the same time last year, according to Autodata Corp.
"It's a way to give (customers) peace of mind," Steven Landry, executive vice president for North American sales, said in a conference call Monday evening. "We want to get everybody through these challenging times."