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from a report in the Detroit News

Automaker makes free financing deals available to almost all buyers in bid to clear 2006 models.


DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group is courting shoppers with yet another new incentive to help move 2006 models off dealer lots.

Beginning today, the automaker will offer zero-percent financing for five years on select models not only to buyers with stellar credit ratings but nearly everyone else as well. Free financing for six years is already available to customers with the best credit.

It is at least the third new discount Chrysler has rolled out this month as the automaker tries to stoke September sales and clear its inventory of older models to make room for 2007 vehicles.

Typically, incentives are rolled out monthly, sometimes less frequently, and remain unchanged until they expire. But Chrysler has been tweaking or adding discounts more than normal this month, according to Edmunds.com, a car buyers' research Web site that tracks automakers' incentive spending.

"Chrysler has been looking at their incentive spending more often than once a month particularly because of their inventory levels," said Jesse Toprak, an analyst with Edmunds.com. The automaker's vehicles took an average 93 days to sell in August, compared with 88 days for Ford Motor Co., and 86 days for General Motors Corp., Toprak said. Toyota Motor Corp. averaged 26 days.

Chrysler spokesman Kevin McCormick said the batch of incentives isn't "any more aggressive than normal" for the start of a new model year.

"We're looking to eliminate any 2006 inventory that may be out there to make room for the 2007 (vehicles)," he said. "This is a normal sale cycle."

The five-year free financing deal is available on 2006 models of the Chrysler Pacifica crossover, Jeep Liberty SUV and Dodge Ram and Dakota pickups.

The automaker is also offering bonus cash of up to $2,500 on 2007 models of the Ram, Liberty, Pacifica and Chrysler and Dodge minivans.

All the deals expire on Monday.

Many of Chrysler's incentives have targeted weaker-selling vehicles such as the Dodge Ram 1500, which averaged $4,563 in incentives in August, and the Durango SUV, which averaged $5,739, Edmunds.com reports.

Chrysler faces an expected $1.5 billion loss in the third quarter, which ends Sept. 30, and is hoping that a record 10 new car and truck launches this year -- most of which are now beginning to trickle into showrooms -- along with the deals will help revive sales, which are down 9.7 percent so far this year.

Chrysler is also trying to keep pace with financing programs that crosstown rivals Ford and GM are using to lure consumers.

Chrysler dealers admit the incentives are becoming confusing to follow but say having a variety makes it more likely they will nab a cross-section of buyers. "Everybody's trying to push the envelope at the end of the month," said John Schenden, president of Pro Chrysler Jeep in Denver. "It's all good."

Brian Ackerman, sales manager at Mike Riehl's Roseville Chrysler-Jeep, said discounts launched this month have drummed up steady, if not brisk, sales.

Chrysler could continue its incentives assault beyond September, Toprak said. The automaker also plans to increase advertising spending by about $500 million to promote its new models.

But Toprak said September is typically a tough sales month for automakers, and October and November aren't much better with so many new models available.

"That's why they may keep it around," he said. "They're looking for any way to move inventory at this point."
 
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