GM offers fuel credit for SUV buyers

| Wednesday, May 24, 2006

General Motors is trying to help consumers stave off high prices at the pump. Or, at the very least, the company is trying awfully hard to boost sales of its SUVs and other typically low-fuel-economy vehicles.

On Tuesday, May 23, the company launched its “GM Fuel Price Protection Program,” which, according to a news release, will give GM buyers in California and Florida a $1.99 price cap on gasoline.

As with most promotional programs, there are a few catches. First, consumers in California must purchase a 2006 or 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe, Suburban, Impala or Monte Carlo. Also eligible in that state are the 2006 or 2007 GMC Yukon and Yukon XL half-ton models; the Hummer H2 and H3; the Cadillac SRX; the Pontiac Grand Prix and the Buick Lucerne.

Eligible vehicles in Florida include the 2006- and 2007-model Chevrolet Impala and Monte Carlo, the Pontiac Grand Prix and the Buick LaCrosse.

Purchases must be made before July 5.

The other catch is that consumers also have to subscribe to the OnStar diagnostic system, which automatically runs diagnostic checks on the vehicle and notifies the owner by e-mail each month. The service is free for the first year, then $16.95 per month after that.

As for the fuel cap, GM will issue customers pre-paid MasterCard credit cards. Each month the company will put credit on the card in an amount determined by estimated fuel usage, which is calculated by miles recorded by the OnStar system and the fuel economy rating of the vehicle.

GM will credit customers for the difference between the average price of fuel in their area and the $1.99 price cap. The credits are good until Dec. 31, 2007, and can be used any place that accepts MasterCard.

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