2009 Volkswagen Routan comes with college tuition voucherEnlarge Photo
This year has seen a larger-than-normal number of advertising and marketing gimmicks as carmakers work to rally sales despite tough conditions. Fuel incentives, loan incentives and employee pricing are just a few of the methods that have been employed. But Volkswagen is taking the idea a step further by depositing $1,500 into a college tuition account for buyers that make a down payment on the Routan minivan.
The account will be held by Upromise, Inc., until it is transferred to a college savings fund, known as a 'Section 529' account. Upromise is owned by SLM Corp., which also owns Sallie Mae Bank, so this is no fly-by-night operation. Already Volkswagen claims 6,000 people have taken advantage of the offer, reports The Wall Street Journal
, proving that it works to some degree.
Whether it will see the sort of tepid longer-term response that the fuel-incentive offers of the past few months have received will be a test of time. The new Routan minivan, based on the Chrysler Town & Country platform - which also hosts the Dodge Caravan - will be built by Chrysler for the German carmaker at the company's Windsor, Ontario plant. The production outsourcing is designed to help cut costs.
Chrysler itself has been one of the leading proponents of fuel incentives for its vehicles, with its 'Let's Refuel America
' campaign. That effort has been a flop, for the most part, with only about 5-10% of customers taking the fuel offer over the more conventional cash incentives or low-interest financing.