Gas cards, rebates used to get customers on car lots

Posted June 16, 2008

— Pinched by lagging demand in a slow economy and soaring gas prices, car dealerships are resorting to a range of gimmicks to lure customers back to their lots.

Johnson Chrysler is among a growing number of dealers offering free or reduced-price gas to people who buy a new car.

"A lot of customers are so geared against the price of fuel that these promotions are drawing attention and driving customers into the stores," said Caz Casbarro, general sales manager at Johnson Chrysler.

The dealership is promoting gas for $2.99 a gallon for three years – the amount of gas is limited based on mileage, and there also is a restriction on the grade of fuel purchased. A sister dealership in Raleigh is offering free gas for the summer.

"We want to be involved in trying to help with a more long-term solution than a short-term solution," Casbarro said.

Rick Hendrick Chevrolet is using rebates of up to $9,000 to move sport utility vehicles off its lot. As with the gas promotions, the rebates come with restrictions.

"You can either take it all at once, or you can take it over a term period, with gas being at a reduced rate," General Manager Doug Harbison said.

Although sales are slower, Harbison said people are still buying SUVs.

"Many people's lifestyles and needs call for a sports utility (vehicle)," he said.

Morgan Mitsubishi has swapped out its inventory, exchanging pickups and Jeeps for more fuel-efficient sedans.

"We have one (of) what we refer to as a gas-guzzler vehicle (on the lot)," Dan Morgan said. "The customer is demanding (the change). The customers come in, (and) they want more fuel-efficient vehicles. It's that simple.

"I think all of our industry is going to have to adapt to it."


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  • BIGCHEESECAMATO Jun 17, 2008

    Everyday there is a born SUC@ER. Car sales people are big time con artist.......Save some dough, dont give the crooks a new car loan. Thats all they want.. They just take and ballon the price of the vehicle to give you something else for free.....

  • jse830fcnawa030klgmvnnaw+ Jun 17, 2008

    At least this appears to be a better offering than handguns offered by one midwest car dealership earlier this year. I understand they had a "killing" in sales :-)

  • whatelseisnew Jun 16, 2008

    Hmm so if gas goes to 2.50 does Chrysler get to charge you the 49 cents?

  • Worland Jun 16, 2008

    As far as Chrysler goes, you have to register one of your credit cards with them and only use that card to buy gas (to receiver $2.99 gallon). At current gas prices, you'll save about $1200 for a small car or $2400 for a truck over 3 years. But, you pay MSRP. No rebates, incentives, etc... It's worth about half of what other makes are offering in rebates. Plus, gas prices will likely go below $2.99 by the end of the year.

    Employee pricing (AKA the X-Plan) is also a joke. You lock yourself to a fixed price and a similarly low NADA "black book" trade in values. You're better off demanding invoice (typically lower than the employee price) and wheel & deal. Employee pricing is good for those who can't negotiate a decent deal on their own.

  • bcc Jun 16, 2008

    I'll keep my old Mazda and Subaru at 30 mpg thank you, rather than help make these con men rich.

  • Rolling Along Jun 16, 2008

    I checked into a couple of best they are worth maybe $600 a year on the reduced price gas. Best way to get ahead? Cut back on driving and reduce usage.

  • FIGSSIT Jun 16, 2008

    I'd like to hear some of the experiences people have had with these gimmicks. The wording I hear on these commercials is questionable at best.