Editor's note: Suzuki was the first automaker to offer a gas price promotion this month. An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported which automaker launched such a program first.
American Suzuki Motor Corp. on May 1launched a nationwide sales promotion offering car buyers 0 percent financing and three months of free gasoline on retail purchases of all new 2007 and 2008 vehicles.
On Monday, May 5, Chrysler said it will cover gasoline costs above $2.99 a gallon for customers who buy or lease a new vehicle from the company. The offer is limited to the first three years customers use their cars and is calculated to cover up to 12,000 miles per year.
So far, Suzuki and Chrysler are the only automakers to launch gas price promotions.
An environmental group also responded Tuesday, calling the Chrysler promotion a cynical deal. The Union of Concerned Scientists said Chrysler is trying to fool consumers into overlooking its vehicles' poor fuel economy and environmental performance.
At the current price of $3.61 a gallon, the buyer of an average Chrysler vehicle would save $400 a year under Chryslers deal, said David Friedman, research director for the groups Clean Vehicles Program.
But a mere 3-mpg boost would yield the same savings over the 15,000 miles per year typically driven in the first three years of ownership. Over the lifetime of a vehicle, such a fuel economy increase would save drivers more than $3,000. It wouldn't stop saving drivers money after just three years.
Suzukis Free Gas for Summer sales program kicked off May 1 and runs through June 30.
Suzuki recognizes the economic impact resulting from soaring gas prices and thought this promotion was a great way to entice eager car buyers, Gary Akin, vice president of sales at American Suzuki Automotive Operations, said in a news release.
Customers who qualify for the offer through American Suzuki Financial Services receive 0 percent financing for up to 60 months and a stored-value Visa debit card that can be used for fuel purchases.
Suzuki said the amount of each stored-value gas card was determined by several factors: an assumed three-month time frame for summer driving, the car or SUVs EPA estimated highway mpg, the Federal Highway Administrations estimated average of 1,000 miles driven per month, and the U.S. national average price of one gallon of regular gasoline as determined by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The value of the card varies by model:
SX4 Sport/Sedan, $320
SX4 crossover, $355
XL7 crossover, $450
Grand Vitara SUV, $470
Forenza sedan, $355
Forenza wagon, $370
Reno hatchback, $355