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From the Detroit Insider:
by:Brian J. O'Connor

Chrysler's '30-day, money back guarantee: What's the catch

As part of its Employee Pricing Plus incentives, the Chrysler Group has unveiled a most daring initiative -- something I would call "The World's Most Expensive Test Drive Program."

Chrysler calls it the 30-Day Return Program. But squint at the fine print on what the automaker's Web site calls a "30-day money-back guarantee" and this deal is hairier than Dieter Zetsche's mustache.

Let's start with a restocking fee of 5 percent of the stickerprice (ouch!), add in the 50-cents per mile usage fee (yikes!), all the sales tax (what!?) plus finance fees, title, tag and registration (grrr!).

Total it up on a premium ride like a Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland, and returning a car you just purchased for about $34,000 could easily cost about 14 percent of the total purchase price -- more than $4,600.

Now, if you don't think $153 a day amounts to one extremely pricey test drive, consider this: You could rent a similar Grand Cherokee four weeks from Dollar Rent A Car for the comparative pittance of $1,143.01.

So the "plus" in Employee Pricing Plus is a real minus: you get only some of your money back, although you do get unlimited opportunities to grind your teeth every time you think about it -- probably while driving your new Toyota.

But don't go thinking this is some wild scheme dreamed up by Black Forest elves as part of parent company DaimlerChrysler AG's Teutonic-themed "Ask Dr. Z" ad campaign. This deal may stink like week-old Wiener schnitzel, but there's logic behind it, says spokesman Kevin McCormick.

"We wanted to balance the right of the consumer to return a vehicle if they're not happy and stand behind our products," he explains, "but there are some costs that are going into the vehicle from the time it is purchased, and
a lot of those are unrecoverable."

The problem, in a word, is depreciation. Once a new car is registered and titled, it immediately stops being new. Depending on the model, the dealer takes a depreciation hit of about 25 percent the instant a new set of wheels drives off the lot. On our Grand Cherokee Overland example, the dealer could end up eating three to four times what gets on the "restocking" charge.

But really, how often does someone want to return a shiny, brand-new car after only a week or two? It took me more than a year to figure out my Plymouth Volare stunk (thank you, Mr. Iacocca).

Now there was a car to take back, Herr Doktor.

More likely, someone bringing a new ride back either feels he or she has bought the wrong car or regrets the deal, auto experts say.
General Motors' Saturn division has been offering a 1,500-mile, 30-day exchange program for years and winds up with very few takers, says spokesman Brian Brockman. There's no restocking fee and no mileage charge as long as it's within the 1,500-mile limit.

"It's engineered to pretty much be penalty-free to the customer," Brockman adds.

The big difference here is that the Saturn program is an exchange, whereas the Chrysler deal is a flat refund that sticks you with three options:
-- Haggle with the dealer for some other car and hope he let's you off the hook or buries the " some-money-back" charges in the financial nitty-gritty of your new deal, where you can try to ignore the whole mess.
-- Kiss your $4,600 goodbye.
-- Grudgingly accept that you've got a $4,600 incentive to learn to love the car you already hate enough to return.

"That's not the objective," counters Chrysler's McCormick. "It's not just an onerous cost thrown up there to be some kind of deterrent."
So what do these guys consider a deterrent? Making you prance around in DaimlerChrysler lederhosen for a year?

At any rate, this non-deterrent certainly will deter anybody from pulling something like the party-dress ploy, where a young lady buys a new dress, wears it to a big shindig, then returns it Monday for a full refund. With this "refund" program in place, there's clearly no chance you'll pick up a Chrysler 300C for the prom, then try to take it back next week.

The ultimate issue, explains Philip Reed, consumer advice editor of the Web site, is that there's no "cooling off" period for car buyers.
"People wanting to return cars generally has more to do with the deal they made than the car itself," Reed notes. "People don't understand the car-buying contract and what's been done to them until they get home over the kitchen table with their own calculator. Then they start to have misgivings and want to bring the car back."

Dealers agree that most car shoppers tend to know what they want and, in an era of Internet comparison shopping, what they can expect to pay.
"Most people, when they buy a car, they've shopped hard and they kind of know what they want," says Alan Helfman of River Oaks Chrysler-Jeep in Houston. "Most people don't buy it to bring it back."

In the end, dealers and others say they suspect the 30-Day Return Program isn't designed to be used at all, but is more of a public relations tool to strengthen Chrysler's quality image and soothe any misgivings of any nervous buyers.

Unless, of course, they can do simple math.

Fortunately, for Chrysler and consumers alike, shoppers aren't mentioning the guarantee when they come into the dealerships, salespeople report, and no one seems to have invoked it.

But if someone does try it, they'll be 100-percent outraged.
I guarantee it.
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