DETROIT – DaimlerChrysler's (DCX) Chrysler division Thursday said it was raising its customer incentives and offering buyers more than $2,000 worth of free gasoline in a bid to combat slumping U.S. auto sales.
The move follows sweeter incentive offers announced earlier this week by General Motors Corp. (GM) and Ford Motor Co. (F) as Detroit's price war heated up again as part of a traditional year-end sales push.
The new deals follow recent but largely unsuccessful efforts by all three automakers to lower profit-gouging discounts.
Chrysler spokesman Kevin McCormick said that starting next Monday the automaker would offer U.S. car buyers a debit card with $2,367 in credit to use for the purchase of gasoline.
The card will be given to customers who purchase most of the company's 2005 and 2006 model year vehicles. Hot-selling models including the Chrysler 300, the Dodge Charger and Dodge Magnum are not included, however.
McCormick said Chrysler would also begin offering car buyers two years of free scheduled maintenance and an extended five-year, or 60,000-mile warranty.
The new incentive program, dubbed "Miles of Freedom," will remain on offer through Jan. 3, McCormick said.
Joe Eberhardt, Chrysler's chief of sales, marketing and service, touted the program in a news release as a "combination of free gasoline, free scheduled maintenance and a full warranty."
High U.S. gasoline prices have slammed the brakes on sales of large sport utility vehicles in recent months in a trend that has hit Detroit automakers particularly hard.