DETROIT - DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group raised the stakes in the warranty game yesterday, offering lifetime repairs for the key components of its cars and trucks sold in the United States.
The powertrain warranty replaces a three-year, 36,000-mile program.
Chrysler said that effective yesterday, the warranty applies to most of its vehicles and "covers the cost of all parts and labor needed to repair covered powertrain components - engine, transmission, and drive system."
It applies to retail sales of gasoline-powered vehicles and excludes sales to rental companies and other fleet users.
The warranty covers about 88 percent of U.S. sales under the Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep brands, company spokesman Lori Pinter said. It applies only to the first person who owns or leases a vehicle. For the warranty to remain in effect, buyers need to have their vehicles inspected at a company dealer once every five years.
The company sold 1.11 million Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep-brand cars and light trucks in the United States during the first half of 2007.
Daimler announced in May that it would sell an 80.1 percent stake in its struggling U.S. unit to Cerberus Capital Management LP.
With the new consumer protections, Chrysler leapfrogs U.S. rivals General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co., which last year extended their powertrain warranties.
GM began offering a five-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty, and Ford extended its warranties to five years or 60,000 miles on Ford and Mercury brands and six years or 70,000 miles on Lincolns.
Ford based its warranty limits on buyers' typically keep vehicles four to five years, said spokesman Jim Cain.
GM said the declining number of its warranty repairs - down 40 percent since 2002 - made it possible to extend the warranty.
South Korea's Hyundai Motor Co. offers a 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain guarantee.
Toyota Motor Co. offers a five-year, 60,000-mile warranty for Toyotas and six years, 70,000 miles on the luxury Lexus brand. "We feel our powertrain warranty is competitive in the marketplace today," spokesman Bill Tong said.