BELVIDERE — Chrysler dealers in the United States in July had their best month since May 2008 selling the Dodge Caliber, Jeep Compass and Jeep Patriot because of the wildly popular ‘cash for clunkers’ program designed by the federal government to push buyers into new, more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Chrysler dealers in the United States in July had their best month since May 2008 selling the Dodge Caliber, Jeep Compass and Jeep Patriot because of the wildly popular "Cash for Clunkers" program designed by the federal government to push buyers into new, more fuel-efficient vehicles.

All three of the models made at Chrysler’s assembly plant in Belvidere are capable of getting 28 mpg under optimum conditions.

In July, according to sales figures released today, dealers sold 18,634 Calibers, Compasses and Patriots, the most since the trio had 24,169 sales in May 2008 when gas prices soared above $4 per gallon.

In Cash for Clunkers, buyers could bring in vehicles that get 18 mpg or less and receive a government rebate of $4,500 toward the purchase of a new car that got a certain amount better mileage than the old vehicle.

All major manufacturers made pushes to take advantage of the program, but Chrysler was most aggressive, offering an additional $4,500 off on any deal.

How much did it help boost sales? Dealers in the U.S. sold nearly as many Calibers, Compasses and Patriots in July as they did in April, May and June combined.

The Jeep Patriot’s total of 8,084 sales was its second best month ever and marked the first time since it was launched in December 2006 that it had more U.S. sales than the Caliber.

Of course, the problem dealers now have is lack of inventory. Production in Belvidere was halted on May 1 when Chrysler began reorganizing under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and wasn’t restarted until July 27, meaning most Chrysler dealers won’t receive new Calibers, Compasses and Patriots until the end of August.

Chrysler eliminated the additional buying incentive today because of a lack of inventory for fuel-efficient vehicles.

Alex Gary may be reached at 815-987-1339 or at agary@rrstar.com.