30 June, 2008

Intern Sweatshop: American Automakers’ Last Gasp Is Passing Gas.

This gas crisis seems to be one of the few times in my memory where the industry has become responsive to the plight of their consumer base. Car makers who have been going green for many years, like Honda and Toyota, were quick to boast that their cars have always been gas-friendly.

American auto makers on the other hand are stuck with their true red-white-blue guzzlers. That’s how we do it in America: bigger, faster, and stronger. But Chrysler and Dodge can meet the needs of their drivers too—they will pay for your gas. You will never again have to pay a cent over $2.99. What, what, what?

It’s nothing new; the gas deals are everywhere. You can get gas cards at supermarkets, baseball games, and even a Nevada brothel (oh yeah, no kidding).

Car companies push sales gimmicks like these all the time. Rebates here, cash back there, and zero percent APR all around. So, how does this particular gimmick work?
Apparently when you buy the car, you link up a credit card account with a brand-spankin’ new “Let’s Refuel America” card, which you can then use at the pump to your heart’s content. So how can they afford to pay for your gas? I decided to investigate the fine print.

America is built on the fine print. Every major deal in history has its own little restrictions and loopholes (*cough* The Constitution *cough*). First of all, let’s look at what qualifies one for this deal:
-The program only covers three years of gasoline and only up to 12,000 miles a year.
-It only applies to “eligible” Dodge, Chrysler, or Jeep models, specifically ones that take regular 87 octane fuel.
-You can only use your Fuel Card with MasterCard or Visa.

Let’s do the actual math. What exactly will you be saving? Most Dodge and Chrysler cars, depending on the model, get anywhere from 19 (Chrysler Aspen) to 30 (Dodge Avenger) mpg highway. For this example, let’s settle on 25 as a nice midpoint.

Now, with 12,000 miles being the limit of your free gas, that’s 480 gallons per year. Right now, we’re teetering on the $4 mark in the Baltimore area, so we’re talking $1,920 being spent on gas every year. At $2.99, you’ll be spending $1,435. So what’s the final number on what you save?


It doesn’t even break triple digits. Over the three years the deal lasts (assuming the impossibility of gas prices NOT going higher), you’re saving $1,455.

The fact is this deal is really nothing more than the standard rebate and cash-back offers the car makers are giving all the time. Chrysler and Dodge actually save money through this scheme, by spreading out this incentive over the course of three years as opposed to an upfront lump sum.

Of course, we Americans are far too savvy to fall for the old $2.99 gas trick, right?

--Aditya Desai, Intern

Previously from the Intern Sweatshop: Hulk-a-mania

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