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Chrysler offers to double cash-for-guzzlers incentive on most '09 models

Wed, 22 Jul 2009 00:00:00 -0700

The Chrysler Group is offering consumers $4,500 on most of its 2009 models, doubling the cash-for-guzzlers incentive offered by the federal government.

"Double Ca$h for Your Old Car," offers up to $4,500 cash or 0 percent financing for 72 months on qualifying new vehicles, even if the consumer's trade-in doesn't qualify for the federal incentive.

The program starts Thursday, July 23, and runs through August, Chrysler announced Wednesday.

"We didn't want consumers without qualifying vehicles to feel left out, so we are offering up to $4,500 to everyone," said Steven Beahm, Chrysler's vice president for sales operations.

Chrysler emerged from six weeks of Chapter 11 reorganization on June 10, and now is controlled by Italian automaker Fiat S.p.A. Through the first half of the year, Chrysler's U.S. sales plummeted 45.7 percent to 471,197 vehicles.

The cash-for-guzzlers legislation, designed to help lift U.S. light-vehicle sales from 27-year lows, provides vouchers of $3,500 to $4,500 to consumers who trade in their rides for new vehicles that are more fuel-efficient. Congress allocated $1 billion to fund the program, which expires Nov. 1.

New cars eligible for the federal incentive must have combined highway and city fuel economy of at least 22 mpg, and small light trucks must have combined fuel economy of at least 18 mpg. New vehicles must have a suggested retail price of $45,000 or less.

Trade-ins eligible for "cash for guzzlers" must be drivable, less than 25 years old and have combined fuel economy of 18 mpg or less. They must have been continuously insured and registered to their owners for at least one year.

Vehicles not included in Chrysler's offer are the Jeep Wrangler, Dodge Challenger and Sprinter and all SRT products.

Chrysler had told dealers that its current incentives would last through July. But some dealers had said they believed customers were holding out in hopes of getting more money for their old vehicles under the cash for guzzlers program.

Said Kathy Graham, Chrysler spokeswoman: "We were hearing from a lot of people who thought they could buy with cash-for-clunkers. But then realized for one reason or another their car didn't qualify. We looked at putting an incentive package together that appealed to everybody."

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is drawing up rules for the cash-for-guzzlers program and is scheduled to release them by the end of the week.

By Chrissie Thompson and Bradford Wernle- Automotive News