Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Subsidized Consumption or: Who exactly is Chrysler refueling?

I've had a rant about this building up inside of me for a while...

Since I first saw an ad for the Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep "Refuel America" program, I thought it was a strange idea. Then it clicked! Someone in the Chrysler family did the math and figured it would be cheaper to just cover part of consumers fuel cost, than it would be to come up with a more fuel efficient car that people would want to buy. Not one of the eligible vehicles gets better than 24 MPG (according to the program calculations). Plus, these numbers have to be somewhat suspect, because the only way a Jeep Commander gets 15 MPG, is if you drive it on the moon. According to my quick math, the Chrysler family of vehicles averages just over 18.5 mpg. In fairness, I don't have a way to compare to other manufacturers... but I'm pretty sure that most of the other big boys have at least one, non-hybrid that can sniff 30+ mpg.

Of course, there's a catch... By participating in the Refuel The Middle East program, you lose out on some rather hefty incentives. Like up to 7,900 smackers on a Dodge Ram pick up truck. So, assuming you are saving $500 a year on the fuel program for 3 years, you are actually leaving $6,400 on the table. Congratulations to Chrysler for coming up with a sham promotion that actually ends up screwing it customers.

I think it's odd that in a time of heightened sensitivity to the increased cost of living, as a result of a spike in fuel prices... that an American car manufacturer would go against the grain and encourage their customers to go ahead and buy a new car or truck. Even worse; buy a new car or truck that gets lousy mileage and will lose it's resale value faster than you can say "Kelley Blue Book".

Full disclosure - My Nissan Pathfinder gets rotten mileage, but the wife's Toyota sips gas. Not exactly an even trade off, but better than the alternative of having a Durango and a Chrysler 300...

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