Posted by: David Welch on May 6, 2008
I’ll concede that Chrysler has hit on a smart marketing move with its “Let’s Refuel America Program.” As Jim Henry details in this blog, Chrysler will give buyers of nearly all of its vehicles a gas card limiting their payout at the pump to $2.99 a gallon for three years. It’s a pretty savvy move considering that about three-quarters of Chrysler’s sales come from pickups, suvs or minivans. With the exception of the vans, most of the company’s offerings are gas guzzlers. This might just work.
But boy are they trying to keep a grip on the past. Gasoline under $3 a gallon is so 2004. The bottom line is that Chrysler has to do this because the company’s product line is stuck in the ’90s. Big suvs, pickups and jeeps are increasingly irrelevant to middle class consumers who find $3.61 a gallon a burden if they can’t get at least 25 mpg. Even Chrysler’s thrifty options, like the Dodge Caliber compact, simply do not stack up with the competition is selling first-rate small cars like the Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla. Will many shoppers really buy a Sebring over a Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima or Chevy Malibu? I’ll save you the research. They aren’t. Yes, it’s a good marketing move. But it’s necessitated because Cerberus bought a company with a product line that is mostly out of date.