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GM Hopes $1.99-a-Gallon Gas Offer Moves Its Fuel Guzzlers

Times Staff Writer

Here’s a way to boost fuel economy: Buy one of General Motors Corp.'s gas guzzlers and fuel will cost only $1.99 a gallon for the next year.

On Wednesday the automaker unveiled the promotion for California residents in hopes of moving some of the vehicles off dealers’ lots. Four of the 11 eligible models are passenger cars; the rest are big trucks.

With California’s gasoline prices the highest of any state except Hawaii, GM is betting the promotion will catch on.

The automaker will issue monthly prepaid debit cards to reimburse eligible customers the difference between $1.99 a gallon and the average price of premium gasoline in California -- determined by AAA’s monthly survey -- even if they use cheaper regular.

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The program covers purchases and leases through July 5 and is being offered on top of any other incentives and rebates on the selected vehicles.

There are no limits on mileage or gasoline price, and customers can use the debit cards for anything they want, said Susan Docherty, GM’s Western regional manager. “We think we’re going to sell some cars with this,” she said, citing early reports of increased showroom traffic.

For a Hummer H2 driven 15,000 miles a year, a buyer would receive an estimated refund of $2,270 over the 12 months, according to a GM website, at www.fuelprotection.com.

GM offers a similar program in Florida, but only for cars.

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Eligible vehicles in California include the 2006 and ’07 models of the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon and the half-ton-capacity Chevy Suburban and GMC Yukon XL, all rated at 14 mpg and 20 mpg. Also on the list: 2006 models of the Hummer H2 and H3 and the Cadillac SRX crossover wagon.

Before the promotion, it took Hummer dealers an average of 145 days to sell an H2, which has a $53,000 sticker price; the smaller H3 models lasted an average of 136 days and the GMC Yukon XL took 111 days.

The only eligible GM cars are the ’06 Chevrolet Monte Carlo coupe and the Chevy Impala, Pontiac Grand Prix and Buick Lucerne sedans. For a V-6 Lucerne, rated at 20 mpg city and 30 mpg highway, GM’s website said Sunday that the potential rebate over 12 months would total $1,314.

Buyers have to take vehicles equipped with GM’s OnStar communications system and a special remote diagnostic program for computing use.

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