Wednesday, June 11, 2008

refueling america: grasping at straws

Hello readers! Apologies for the long drought in posting. It's been a busy 6 weeks...

So, there's been a lot going on in the world since my last post. I'll start my return to the blogosphere with a piece on a new marketing strategy I've been hearing about as I watch Mets games (an activity that has become a lot more painful since I wrote last...yikes). This strategy's moniker? "Let's Refuel America."

The label alone makes me think of such falsely named Bushy initiatives as No Child Left Behind and Clean Skies—and for good reason. The program is run by Dodge, Chrysler, and Jeep, who have teamed up to offer customers who buy one of their vehicles a deal where they pay no more than $2.99 per gallon for gas in each of the next three years. As the program website states, after buying a car or truck, you get a special credit card that magically converts every gas or diesel gallon you purchase to $2.99. (You simply pay the initial bill if prices go back under $2.99 per gallon.) Of course, as average gas prices have recently passed the $4-mark, the deal may seem like a pretty sweet one. Here's why it's not!

For one thing, I looked into the fine print, and you can only use the card for a certain amount of gas. I don't think they're worrying about people reselling the gas—although stranger things have happened. But they preset a maximum amount of fuel that you can purchase that's based on the miles-per-gallon consumption rating of the car you buy (of course, there are other restrictions on grade of fuel you can buy, too). For instance, if you buy a Jeep Grand Cherokee, which gets a paltry 16 miles per gallon, you can buy up to 2,250 gallons of gas—which, by the way, doesn't actually need to be used in that Grand Cherokee you purchased—over three years. But if you buy a Jeep Compass, which gets a much more respectable 24 miles per gallon, you can only purchase 1,500 gallons over the three-year term. How annoying is that?

Of course, the bigger problem with this program is that it promotes our continued reliance on driving fuel-inefficient cars. Rather than following the trend of many other car companies, who of late have obviously been working much harder at building and promoting hybrid models that both use less gas and pollute less, Chrysler, Jeep, and Dodge are effectively giving a big middle finger to the environment just to make a buck. "We'll pay the oil companies off so you can use our gas-guzzling cars!" they're saying. "Who cares about cutting our dependence on oil and our emissions of noxious, polluting carbon dioxide? We've got SUVs to sell!" It's really sad. I urge anyone in the market for a new car not to fall for this horrible scheme! If you really want to save money on gas and you must get a new car, buy one with fuel economy of 40 miles per gallon or more. Here's a list of cars that get great mileage.

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