DETROIT -- In the face of another month of double-digit sales declines, Chrysler LLC launched an aggressive round of incentives Saturday, March 1.
Chrysler led the industry in incentives in February, spending an average of $3,579 a vehicle, according to Edmunds.com.
From February to March, our incentives are up 5 percent month over month, said Mike Keegan, Chryslers vice president for volume planning and sales operations.
The incentives, being offered as part of Chryslers New Day sales campaign, include 0 percent interest for 72 months on most remaining 2007 units in stock and 0 percent financing for 62 months on select 2008 models, including the Jeep Commander and Grand Cherokee; the Chrysler Aspen, Pacifica and Sebring convertible; and the Dodge Dakota, Magnum, Durango, and light- and heavy-duty Rams.
Chrysler also is offering Dodge truck customers a free upgrade to a Hemi engine for March. Steven Landry, executive vice president for North American sales, said Dodge is offering the free upgrade as it prepares to sell down remaining stocks of current Dodge Ram pickups. A redesigned Dodge Ram arrives in dealerships this fall.
Starting March 1, customers buying or leasing new Chrysler vehicles are getting a free tank of gasoline, something dealers had been requesting. Chrysler also is offering U.S. military personnel a $500 rebate on top of any other incentives. In addition, Chrysler is offering a $500 rebate to employees of companies that supply components to Chrysler.
Chrysler sales struggled in February, down 14 percent from a year ago. The malaise hit even some of Chryslers most popular models. Sales of the Jeep Wrangler, the companys hottest product the last couple of years, dropped 23.3 percent for the month and are down 27.3 percent for the year so far. The Dodge Ram pickup dropped 20.9 percent.
Car sales provided a bright spot for a company dominated by trucks.
Car sales rose 3.0 percent for the month. The Chrysler Sebring and Dodge Avenger sedans did particularly well in February: the Sebring was up 92.5 percent; the Avenger rose 59.6 percent. The Sebring outsold the Avenger 11,056 units to 8,306. But truck sales still rule at Chrysler, and they were off 21.8 percent in February.
Landry said Chrysler hopes that economists are right when they say the sluggish economy might turn a corner during the second half of the year or even sooner.
We know there will be an upside, he said. If it is March, we want to be ready.
Landry said Chrysler cut sales to rental fleets again last month and said there would be double-digit declines every month for the rest of the year.