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September 19th, 2008

Chrysler LLC will pay dealers as much as $1,000 to order select vehicles from the auto maker as it looks to keep plants running amid an eroding sales market.

Dealers can turn their $1,000 payment into an incentive that can be passed on to a customer and applied to any vehicle in the auto maker's product portfolio, according to three dealers briefed on the offer. Some of the select vehicles include the Dodge Charger and Jeep Grand Cherokee.
"This is a voluntary program that dealers can choose to participate in if they feel there is opportunity for growth and incremental sales in their markets," Chrysler spokesman Stuart Schorr said. "It's not uncommon in the industry." Chrysler, like Ford Motor Co. (F) and General Motors Corp. (GM), is taking more drastic steps to sell vehicles and control costs as consumers, jolted by the financial moves on Wall Street, slow their purchases. In the past few months, Chrysler said it may sell its Viper nameplate while GM is considering getting rid of its Hummer brand. All three auto makers are also idling production as needed.

On Thursday, Chrysler announced it is expanding its employee pricing to nearly all 2008 and 2009 Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep models now on dealer lots. Chrysler U.S. employees can also give one additional discount to a friend or neighbor. GM's "employee pricing for everyone" will end this month. GM has offered the discounts since Aug. 19.

Separately, Chrysler is planning to share details of its new electric car with the media and dealers next week. The compact car is supposed to be able to travel about 40 miles on battery power alone.

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