Skyrocketing gas prices scared off many would-be buyers of SUVs, trucks, minivans and other large vehicles over the past year. Now auto makers are trying to lure them back onto car dealers' lots by offering head-turning cash incentives some as high as $8,000 on these now-notorious gas guzzlers.

Call it an act of desperation. Sales of SUVs and light trucks fell 24% since last May, while heavy truck sales are down 30%, according to Autodata Corp., a New Jersey-based market researcher. (The situation is so dire that both Ford and General Motors are temporarily shuttering some plants that make SUVs and trucks.) During the same time, manufacturer incentives were up 5% year over year, according to Edmunds.com. Today, average incentives for large trucks total $4,667; for large SUVs, $4,603.

"Dealerships have a lot of money tied up in these vehicles," says Jack Nerad, executive editorial director for Kelley Blue Book. "They don't want them sitting on the lot."