Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Chrysler will pay for new-car fill-up

DETROIT — Chrysler LLC dealers are getting their gasoline money back.

Starting March 1, Chrysler will restore to dealers money to give customers a full tank of fuel for new vehicles.

Chrysler executives received loud ovations when they announced the change at dealer meetings across the country. The cost to fill the 21.1-gallon tank of the Jeep Grand Cherokee, for instance, is about $63.

Under DaimlerChrysler ownership, the company took away the fill-up money in 2000 after rancorous meetings with dealers. The reinstated fill-up is part of a series of retail initiatives the company is rolling out this month as part of Chrysler's "New Day Celebration."

In a national road show Feb. 4-8, Chrysler LLC's top sales executives — including co-President Jim Press, Executive Vice President Steven Landry and Chief Marketing Officer Deborah Meyer — revealed major changes to dealers. Chrysler also told dealers it will speed parts delivery to them by giving a key component of the business to UPS.

Under Press, formerly Toyota's top North American executive, Chrysler has been listening to criticism from dealers, many of whom were unhappy during the DaimlerChrysler era.

For instance, Chrysler has reduced inventory by more than 100,000 vehicles because dealers said the factory was cramming unwanted cars down their throats.

Support group
To build support from dealers, Chrysler will
-- Pay for a new vehicle's first tank of gasoline
-- Speed parts to dealers via UPS
-- Cut inventory by more than 100,000 units to reduce pressure on dealers to take unwanted vehicles
-- Offer discounts on certain well-equipped vehicles

Chrysler also says it will give customers more equipment for their money on 12 vehicles.

For example, Chrysler now is offering the Aspen Limited SUV equipped with a MyGig in-dash stereo hard drive and rear parking camera along with heated two-tone front seats and 18-inch chrome wheels at a discount. Customers pay $1,855 for a package worth $3,355, according to Chrysler.

During the second quarter, Chrysler will start using UPS to ship parts that dealers can't get from local parts depots.

Dealers complain now that if parts aren't available at the local depot, orders are referred elsewhere, usually to the national depot. Then the order is shipped to the local depot before going to the dealership.

Under the new system, those parts will be shipped by UPS directly from the national depot to the dealership. Dealers will be able to track the shipments using UPS' tracking technology.

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