A Chrysler dealership sign
A Chrysler dealership sign - 
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Scott Jagow: Here's how bad things have gotten for U.S. car makers: GM sales fell 18 percent in June compared to last year -- and that was considered good news! Chrysler's drop was twice that. So, what does Chrysler do? They are extending that gas price incentive. Now, if you buy a Chrysler you get gas for $3 a gallon for three years. Reporter Rico Gagliano considers Chrysler's logic.

Rico Gagliano: Or, rather, the lack thereof. 'Cause with gas prices rising, isn't Chrysler's offer kind of . . . stupid?

Jessie Toprak of car Web site Edmunds.com says it may be -- for car buyers.

Jessie Toprak: In a lot of the cases, consumers are better off taking a traditional large cash rebate than the gas card.

Here's the math: At current prices, Toprak says Chrysler's deal can save you as much as 3,000 bucks over three years. But on some vehicles, consumers can opt instead for thousands more in rebates. Even a big jump in gas prices might not make up the difference.

Still, critics wonder why Chrysler is selling the promise of cheaper gas instead of building more fuel-efficient cars.

Toprak: As an auto maker, what are you gonna do for a car that is already sitting on dealer's lot? You can't change a product -- you have to figure out a way to get rid of it.

Honda, meanwhile, has less trouble getting rid of their product. They were the only major auto maker to post a sales increase last month. They've got the most fuel-efficient car line-up on the market.

In Los Angeles, I'm Rico Gagliano for Marketplace.