auto

An upside to Chrysler's plight

With last week's Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing of Chrysler LLC, owner of the Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep brands, the company is doing everything it can to make its restructuring go smoothly and quickly. For consumers, that means steep incentives on all of its vehicles.

Through June 1, Chrysler LLC is offering rebates of up to $4,000 on its Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep cars and trucks. In addition, current owners can get an extra $1,000 "loyalty bonus" if they buy a new vehicle. Plus, members of 8,200 participating credit unions can get an extra $500 or $1,000 off, depending on the model, if they finance through the credit union.

Finally, if you're part of the military or military reserve, active or retired, you can add a $500 discount, plus a free lube, oil and filter service contract that lasts three years. That amounts to as much as $6,500 off.

So is it time to buy a new Chrysler, Dodge or Jeep? If one of these vehicles excites you and suits your driving needs, then now is a good time to buy. In most cases, you'll have a large number of cars in different colors and options to choose from, and you'll get a great price, especially if you're a savvy negotiator.

Will life be different as a Chrysler, Dodge or Jeep owner now compared with a couple of years ago? It may be a bit different, depending on the results of the company's bankruptcy proceedings and reorganization.

In all likelihood, Chrysler will emerge from bankruptcy and fall under the management of Fiat, which has been working with Chrysler in a deal to help Fiat sell cars again in the United States. If this happens, then there will likely be little impact on Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep owners.

If you are planning to visit a local dealer for maintenance and repairs on your new car, then you may want to research the location of several dealers that are near you before buying. Chrysler has confirmed that it will close some of its 3,200 stores. If the dealer closest to you shuts its doors, you may have a longer drive.

As the new owner of a Chrysler model, you'll be fully covered under its warranty, and that warranty must be honored by any new company owner, such as Fiat. So it's unlikely that you'll experience any difficulties if you need warranty work, except perhaps the longer drive to a dealer. Further, the U.S. government will back any warranty claims should Chrysler LLC or its new owner be unable to comply.

With the restructuring, it is likely that some models -- some analysts say as much as 60 percent -- will be discontinued. If your model is discontinued, most likely you won't have any trouble getting your car repaired because so many parts are shared between many vehicles, and there would be an adequate supply of body panels.

However, if you buy a model now that is discontinued later, it is likely that the car's resale value will be lower than if production continued, even if under a different brand name, so be sure you are going to keep your car for the long haul.

Read more Driving for Dollars columns and Bankrate auto stories.

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