Chrysler is facing a backlash from taxpayers and conservative groups after the ailing auto company took out a series of full-page newspaper ads last week to thank Americans for "investing" in the company through the government's $17.4 billion auto industry bailout plan. 

Critics say the company, which is expected to receive about $4 billion of that bailout money in the near term, should not be spending its already limited resources on pricey advertisements. 

"It's quite ridiculous to be spending that kind of money," said Princella Smith, national spokeswoman for American Solutions, an organization headed by former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich. "Those ads are just a precise example of the fact that they do not get it ... and it's just in our faces." 

The ads ran last week in several major daily newspapers, including USA Today, The Wall Street Journal and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Since USA Today and The Wall Street Journal are two of the highest-circulation newspapers in the country, full-page ad rates are steep. A full-page ad in The Wall Street Journal runs between $206,000 and $264,000, and a full-page ad in USA Today runs between $112,000 and $217,000. 

Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, said in a written statement to that Chrysler should give back the money. 

"Years ago there was a robber who was really polite. He said please and thank you while he was robbing people. At the end of the day, people had their money stolen. Saying thank you doesn't make it OK. They should give the money back," Norquist said. 

Chrysler's ad, which is also posted on the company's Web site, pledges to produce cars and trucks that are attractive to consumers and improve their fuel economy. 

"On behalf of the 1 million people who depend on Chrysler for their livelihoods, thank you for investing in Chrysler, and America," says the statement, signed by CEO Bob Nardelli. 

A representative for Chrysler could not be reached for comment. 

The ad buys have also triggered a wave of criticism on blogs and editorial pages. 

One recent letter to the editor in the Chicago Tribune said the automaker "proved their incompetence" by taking out the ads. 

"How about spending the money on producing cars that work, are fuel efficient, and that people want to buy?" the letter said.