DETROIT -- Chrysler Group, traditionally the industry's high-incentive bargain basement, has a new philosophy on pricing -- and so far its deal-oriented customer base isn't buying it.
Yes, Chrysler Group ended a 25-month year-over-year sales skid in February. But the increase over February 2009 was less than 1 percent, compared with a 43 percent rise for Ford Motor Co. and a 33 percent gain for General Motors Co.'s four surviving brands.
And 58 percent of Chrysler's February sales went to fleets, generally the least profitable way to sell cars and trucks.
Long term, CEO Sergio Marchionne is determined to rebuild the company with strong brands, and an essential part of that process is whacking Chrysler's feverish incentive spending.
But that's tough to do when fresh new products are still far off, even though Chrysler added dealer incentives this month to give stores more bargaining room.
The loss of regional dealer ad groups and tight consumer credit have hurt, too.
Chrysler Group sold 84,449 vehicles in February -- just 35,832 at retail. For perspective, its total sales in February 2008 were 150,093.
The bottom line: Dealers face a tough slog until the new Fiat-based products start flowing in 2012.