We knew critics of Chrysler's $2.99 Gas Guarantee would crawl out of the woodwork before too long, and here they come. Automotive News reports that The Union of Concerned Scientists has called Chrysler's program a "cynical deal", noting that at today's current average price of $3.61/gallon, a customer would save about $400 a year under Chrysler's program. Being the smart folk they are, the scientists also pointed out that customers could save the same amount from a 3 mpg bump in fuel economy over 15,000 miles or a year of driving, and that better fuel economy also continues saving the customer money after three years. Damn, scientists are so smart with the math.

The criticism hasn't stopped Suzuki, however, from announcing its own free gas deal. For vehicles purchased between May 1st and June 30th, Suzuki is offering 0% financing and three months of totally free fuel in its "Free Gas for Summer" program. Buyers will basically get a stored-value credit card that's charged with a different amount of money depending on the model purchased.

These incentive programs are nothing but promotions designed to grab headlines and make buyers feel like they're getting more money back than they actually are. Playing off the media's hysteria over high gas prices, Chrysler (and Suzuki) is betting buyers will feel that paying $2.99/gallon for three years is more valuable than a $2,000 cash back rebate. Trust the math, it's really not. Nevertheless, it will likely sell more Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep vehicles than a boring $2,000 rebate would.

[Source: Automotive News – sub. req'd]