The Toledo-built Jeep Liberty, DaimlerChrysler AG's sport-utility model introduced last spring to replace the Cherokee, has its first sales incentive.
The company announced yesterday that it is offering $1,000 incentives on leases for Libertys in the northeast United States, including New York, Philadelphia, and Boston. No other sales incentives are available, however, on the vehicle whose sales have been healthy but not strong enough to add an extra shift to boost production at the Toledo Jeep Assembly Plant.
Incentives, designed to combat hot-selling rivals, also were offered yesterday by Ford Motor Co. on its Escape SUV. The nation's No. 2 automaker is offering $500 sales rebates on the vehicle nationwide.
The market for small sport-utilities has become more competitive with the entry of the Liberty, Escape, Hyundai Motor Co.'s Sante Fe, and a redesigned model from Honda Motor Co. Ford's Escape sales dropped 28 percent to 29,964 in the first quarter, while sales rose 64 percent for both Honda's CR-V, to 39,053, and Hyundai's Santa Fe, to 17,870.
Chrysler sold 34,880 Jeep Libertys in the first quarter, but has no comparison figure because it wasn't making them a year ago.
Chrysler dealers in other parts of the country are watching the Liberty incentives in the Northeast, said dealer Jerry Bowman who runs the Stuart-Bowman Auto Center in Asheboro, N.C. Sales of the Toledo SUV have slowed at his dealership from about 10 per month last year to about six per month now, he said.
"It's starting to slow down, but we don't want to do too much because we're still selling Liberty at its real value," he said. "It's not the kind of vehicle that needs to be sold like distressed goods."