By on February 1, 2009

Three-hundred dollars Canadian is not a lot of money for a car that functions. But it buys you—well, the Canadian government—a lot of greenwashing. OK, some. “Retire Your Ride” pays the three bills for any currently registered Canadian car produced before 1996, “the year the government introduced more stringent emissions standards.” Canadian Driver dutifully reports, “These pre-1996 models produce about 19 times more air pollutants than newer cars and trucks.” Wow! Nineteen times! The Clean Air Foundation is in charge of sending any one of five million-ish eligible cars to the crusher, in exchange for CA$300 or discounts on public transit passes, bicycles or memberships in car sharing companies. As my father said to me on many memorable (if imminently lamentable) occasions, “How much is this boondoggle going to cost me?” This one, me, nothing. Canadian taxpayers, CA$92m. Canadian Driver saves the withering analysis for the end of their article, but it’s worth the wait…

Automotive analyst, Dennis Desrosiers, believes the plan is “a waste of time and energy and taxpayer money” and will fail because the amount being offered is too low. “Explain to me why a consumer with an asset worth at least a couple thousand dollars if not a lot more would turn it in for $300 bucks?” Desrosiers said. He pointed out that similar vehicle scrappage programs in Germany are offering over $4,000 for cars that are over nine years old.

Don’t you love it when government intervention doesn’t go far enough? No? Party pooper.

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35 Comments on “Canada Cash for Clunkers: CA$300...”


  • avatar
    CarPerson

    If it is in decent shape inside and out, current with maintenance, passes emissions testing, and license is current, it’s worth $1,500 and up as a basic ride.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Maybe I’m being more than a little partisan, but this seems like more of the same token crap that the Conservative government has been keen to due in lieu of actual work. Because, you know, that would mean admitting that there’s actually a problem, something this government is not keen to do.

    I feel about this the way I feel about income-tax breaks, which is to say: I don’t care at all, especially considering that the both amount to the same dollar figures, both cost the government a whack in revenue, and both sacrifice practicality for ideology. Again, we’re talking about the Conservatives: empty ideological gestures designed to make sycophantic copy in the likes of the Toronto Sun is what they do.

    A sales tax cut I can understand. I might not think it’s a good idea, but I could understand the rationale. This is lame.

  • avatar
    tesla deathwatcher

    These cash for clunkers schemes sound good, but rarely do much good. Or as Farago puts it, this is greenwashing. Just like cash for guns programs, the cars that will be turned in are mostly not the ones you want turned in.

    It’s interesting that 5 million of Canada’s 20 million cars and trucks are over 12 years old. I thought it would have been more.

    Interesting too that the angle here is getting the bigger polluters off the roads. In Germany the angle is to stimulate the carmaking industry.

  • avatar
    chuckR

    re: air pollutants – 19 x 0 still equals 0, pretty much.

  • avatar
    stuki

    In a severe downmarket, where even newer, cleaner cars will be disgustingly cheap, stunts like this may actually do a bit of good. $300 seems too low, though. That’s barely more than the metal content of some of those junkers, especially the big ones which are likely the dirtiest.

    In any case, it’s refreshing to see some do gooders focusing on honest to goodness pollutants for a change, not soda bubbles. According to the off the deep end CO2 / mileage / global warming crowd, soot spewing Greatful Dead vans are somehow better than many modern cars, since they give better mileage and can run on hemp oil or whatnot. And they’re, like, anti Boosh.

  • avatar

    These are the same folks who came up with the universal childcare benefit of $100 per month ROFL…

    Desrosiers lost any remaining credibility as an impartial voice last year when he was downplaying cross border car shopping as an issue. He also stated that a GM / Chryco merger would INCREASE their combined market share.

    They need to return The Honourable Lawrence Canon as Minister of Transport. He was probably the most effective person in that role in the history of the country.

  • avatar
    John Williams

    “Explain to me why a consumer with an asset worth at least a couple thousand dollars if not a lot more would turn it in for $300 bucks?”

    Because government always depends on the stupidity and gullibility of others for their schemes to function. I bet some elderly widow will be more than willing to give up her perfectly fine, low mileage car that is worth at least $2500 for a measly $300 Canadian loons.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    chuckR writes “re: air pollutants – 19 x 0 still equals 0, pretty much.”

    …not only that, the biggest percentage of beaters turned in under this law will be those that either aren’t in use, therefore not polluting the air at all, or maybe might be used a few times a year, therefore not polluting the air that much at all.

    I don’t think there is a clean end to pick this one up by.

  • avatar
    romanjetfighter

    Building a new car uses more energy and pollutes more by using more resources, etc. etc. I would think than running that old car forever.

    This is just government’s way of encouraging people to spend spend spend. Capitalism depends on constant spending/borrowing/being in debt. It’s not necessarily a bad thing… but this program looks really stupid in so many ways.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    These are the same folks who came up with the universal childcare benefit of $100 per month ROFL…

    Oooh, I forgot about that one. It came with the “private industries will fill the need for child care” fantasy. Sure they will. I’ll bet business big and small are lining up armpit-deep to provide invest into the financial and legal quagmire that is quality daycare, all for a hundred bucks or so a month.

    A decent plan would be a sales tax rebate, possibly scaling with fuel economy. A good plan would have been acknowledging that there isan economic problem, or at least doing so beyond saying “Now’s a great time to invest.”

  • avatar
    deckard

    I completely agree with the first comment.
    $1500 is the current market price for anything that legally passes emissions.
    The Safety/Cert can be “found” for a couple hundred more.
    If the Government offered at least $1000 cash or tax deductible receipt, car recycling would be more fashionable.
    Until then disposable cars will roam the streets while still legally passing emissions.
    It is a common form of recycling here in Canada a.k.a. the “Winter Beater.”

  • avatar
    chanman

    In BC, there is a provincial program that offers up to about 2000 worth off the price of a new bike, or in transit passes (mailed monthly), or a smaller rebate off a new car for cars over a certain age. They call it the Scrap-It program.

    We just traded in a 1993 Century with 215,000 km and no muffler for about two grand of passes that we sold to some friends that transit to work. Don’t think we would’ve gotten that much for the car any other way…

  • avatar
    wmba

    @ psarhjinian:

    I agree with your analysis. I am of a conservative bent in Canadian terms, but have zero faith in this particular government. It is run by Stephen Harper, an idealogue, whose main talent lies in pissing everyone else off, and the end result is mean-spirited, cynical and divisive programs.

    Put under the gun by opposition parties, his government has come up with programs to nominally placate the populace, but they are designed to fail from the start, by offering sweet f*** all in real terms. They are programs in name only. Besides this clunker offer, there are similar made to fail programs like 15% off on insulation products for your house, and other “Gee, I can’t wait to take that offer up!” bullshit. I’m sure that GM met its match in dealing with getting $4B from this useless government. (not that I’m in favor of doing so)

    The opposition has proposed that the government must present 3 month updates on its programs to prove that all the money they say they are going to spend is actually spent. Reason: so far, almost no money has actually been spent on announced programs even during “normal” times prior to the current economic meltdown. It’s all smoke and mirrors. Being conservative, I expect a Conservative Prime Minister to be of his word, not hiding behind some hidden agenda. Completely untrustworthy.

    Vote is today on this opposition amendment, and I predict the government will twist and turn like a startled deer caught in the headlights at night, trying to get out of actually trying to provide this public information, fearing that its ruse has been rumbled. The PR machine will be loaded up and lies will be dispensed at great speed, all slightly off topic and appealing to emotion rather than reason. That’s the way this idiotic government works.

    It’s easy to see how these cynical programs work: Announce something that seems like a good idea and then make sure it is so uninteresting to citizens that they don’t participate. But of course, the fact that the program exists allows this idiot and his government to crow about meeting the needs of Canadians, while essentially doing absolutely nothing.

    Cynical and nasty. 300 bucks for an old clunker. Wowee, that’ll work, eh? Nobody will take up the offer, and $92 million will never be spent. Multiply that saving by all the other guaranteed to fail programs, and we’ll save billions, literally. It’s BS from start to finish.

    Stimulate the economy in this depression? Hah!

  • avatar
    mikey

    For a massive amount of our population,riding a bike or public transportation is not an option.

    What public transport?My wife works in downtown Toronto.The GO station is 7 miles from our front door.Its minus 8 degrees and the snow banks are 6 feet high.I just asked her if she wanted to ride her bike to the train today.Among other things she said no.

  • avatar
    Blunozer

    I don’t blame the current Tory government for this silliness.

    At heart, Harper is a cold, free-market economist who cares very little about enviromental issues. However, for those of you unfamiliar with Canadian politics, Harper and his Tories now hold a minority government, meaning that he needs the support of at least one other party on any given bill.

    This means a lot of token gestures included in any bill or budget to appease the Left-leaning Liberal Party, the Socialist New Democrat Party, or the Seperatist Bloc Quebecois.

  • avatar
    hazard

    Blunozer – bingo.

    The only reason the Conservatives are doing this is because the opposition wants them to “do something”, so they must, since they run a minority government.

    I mean, c’mon, we wouldn’t even have this nonsensical Keynesian claptrap about fiscal stimulus if this was a majority government – which is good, because fiscal stimuli in Canada in the past have failed to do anything notable except increase the national debt – but since Dion, Rae, and Layton were ready to concoct an unprecedent three-headed monster to topple the government, we will now have some irresponsible spending, i.e. “doing something”. Thank God Ignatieff took over the Liberals and calmed things down.

    I mean, the NDP would give you $8000 per “clunker”, but they don’t want the Tories to do that, because otherwise what would they criticize? On the other hand, these token gestures allow them to say they are “fighting for the interests of Canadians” and “making parliament work” or whatever other empty phrase Jack Layton likes to use.

  • avatar

    Yep, 19 times the air pollution, but to buy a new car would be 20 times the purchase cost of an older car.

    Older cars have character, no, that does not mean higher chance of breaking down, it means design, plain and simple. Soul, if you will. There are plenty of new cars with soul, you just have to pay a magnitude more for such cars, new.

    What about the differences in repair costs, and diagnosis. Anyone can work on an old car, the dealer or the shop is the only place to get your new car looked at (other than simple things like oil changes or brakes).

    Then there’s the construction cost, when you destroy an “obsolete” piece of machinery that still functions perfectly well, you destroy all the effort that was put into creating it, you deprive people of decades of future economical use of said object, and in some cases, you destroy a work of art that maybe just needs a restoration.

    Plus, shouldn’t Canada be burning as many greenhouse causing materials as it can, since ‘global warming’ will increasingly open up the northern reaches of Canada for oil and gas, logging, development, and public enjoyment more year-round?

  • avatar
    JJ

    There is some talk in the Netherlands about copying the German rebates for trading in old cars (9+ years). In Germany this rebate is EUR2500.- (starting from July, which is weird, but probably the shortest term possible due to bureaucratic reasons) on a new car sold.

    In the Netherlands however, there wouldn’t really be the glaringly obvious real reason behind the incentive (German car industry) eventhough obviously the Dutch economy is heavily intertwined with the German one, of course, so indirectly there would be some potential benefits for the Dutch economy would people buy German cars…

    But still that leaves the ‘green argument’ as the only good reason (as in not really a good reason, but the only reason good enough for politicians to seel to the people), which is a bit strange.
    It is strange, because right now, and ever since 1978, there have been special taxes on new cars and bikes (appart from VAT) of 1000s of EUROs. Buy a car of EUR25000.- (average price of new cars sold in the Netherlands) and about EUR6000.- of that is special taxes (it’s a percentage of the net price, with some adjustments). Hence all Dutch people drive around in Golfs and Astras.

    But now, by creating this ‘green measure’, they are basically simultaneously admitting that the special tax is bad for the environment (not to mention ruled illegal by the EU commission) and has been all those years (while obviously, it was a measure pushed by the leftists all those years ago)…

  • avatar
    Johnny Canada

    “These pre-1996 models produce about 19 times more air pollutants than newer cars and trucks.”

    This is typical lazy journalism. How far back in model years do you have to go to make this statement fit the template?

    My 1995 Dodge Ram (170k miles) easily passes Ontario’s emission tests. When reviewing past test results, there is almost no change from when new.

  • avatar

    You can criticize the tories all you like, but think about it – what would the grits have done? Probably taxed clunkers clear off the road. Quebec is using that tactic to get rid of motorcycles – it costs 1000$ to register what they consider a “sport” bike, and 500$ for anything else over 400cc. For comparison it costs 250$ to register a car.

  • avatar
    jaje

    I’m sure many of those considering doing a LeMons entry would pay more than $300 CDN for some good running cars up yonder. We’d maybe give them $500 US for some prized examples.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    You can criticize the tories all you like, but think about it – what would the grits have done? Probably taxed clunkers clear off the road.

    Sort of.

    The Liberal program—ecoAuto—actually worked fairly well, so much so that it actually distorted the sales of certain models (the Yaris, which made the cut, sold much more than the Fit, which didn’t; ditto the Rogue). You got a big, fat tax rebate for buying a fuel efficient car, and it got bigger the more efficient it was. Of course, the Conservatives cancelled it, partly because it was Liberal, and partly because not a single Canadian-made car excepting the Corolla qualified.

    Demand-side stimulus is not a bad thing per se, but this program is a ninety-two-million dollar PR job to cover the cancellation of the much more effective (from a green standpoint) ecoAuto program.

    Getting clunkers off the road is done at the provincial level through emissions testing, as it should be. Testing, I might add, which is an utter crock. I recall when it first came in, my 86 Corolla flunked, where my friend’s Parisienne passed despite having emissions that, in some cases, where an order of magnitude worse than mine. I’ll give that it’s not entirely fair to hold a early-80s V8 fullsizer to standards it could never have met, but there ought to be a provision for cars that actually are fuel efficient.

    Now, I don’t generally like the Liberals (I’m a registered NDP member who’s not enamoured with Layton), but Chretien and Martin showed much sounder fiscal policy than Harper/Flaherty are. The Liberals—adscam aside—were pragmatists, Harper’s conservatives are ideologues first and fiscal managers second, often doing what sounds good to libertarian think-tanks like Cato or the CTF, but doesn’t actually work.

  • avatar
    bluecon

    This is a step in the right direction for government. A program so stupid it won’t cost taxpayers anything. If they could just do the same with the billion dollar Global Warming and ethanol programs.

  • avatar
    bluecon

    Soon the government will not have the money for their money spending plans since tax receipts are drying up at an exponential rate.

    The left have their victory and the big corporations are destroyed. Now who is going to pay the bills?

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    The left have their victory and the big corporations are destroyed. Now who is going to pay the bills?

    Boy, that “in the good times” GST cut is looking less well-advised each day, isn’t it? And we’re going to follow it up with more tax cuts that, lets be honest, most people aren’t going to notice anyway but are still going to gut government revenue at a time when they’re about to start running serious deficits.

    Tax cuts are not an effective economic stimulus: at best, they encourage people to save a pittance; typically, they pump more money out of the economy than they bring in. I’m not recommending increasing taxes, but there’s certainly smarter ways to spend you money.

  • avatar
    charleywhiskey

    I hope Barry picks up on some of these empty token programs that keep the lefties from doing any real damage while essentially costing nothing.

  • avatar
    50merc

    Anyone up in Canada care to call a junkyard–excuse me, I mean salvage yard–and see what it’s paying for a heap that has a catalytic converter? Seems to me this C$300-per-clunker program should be able to almost pay for itself.

  • avatar
    mikey

    @ 50merc My brother is an auto recycler a complete car delivered to his yard 2 -300$ max

    The cat converter and alum wheels WERE driving scrap prices up not so much now.Salvagble parts
    are where the bucks are.The parts for the Korean and German cars fetch top bucks.The economy has people keeping cars longer.The cost of new parts for the imports is staggering so the demand is high.

  • avatar
    Nicholas Weaver

    California at least will give $1K for cars that fail smog.

  • avatar

    Its minus 8 degrees and the snow banks are 6 feet high.

    Mikey, Thanks for that weather report. You’re making me feel better about Boston winters (it’s high 30s today, snowbanks only about 3 ft high, well, some are higher).

  • avatar
    Scorched Earth

    I don’t care how old it is, a Dodge Stealth will never be a clunker.

  • avatar
    CarPerson

    If the government is of a mind that civilization can only continue in its present form if older cars are removed from the roads, some tools are available.

    Spinning something around fuel economy will go nowhere. CAFE is a POS that did little to actually increase mileage. Ten year-old vehicles with one size smaller engine often equal or beat the new iron. Don’t bother trying to sell fuel economy. Let a barrel-head tax do that.

    That leaves safety. Pick a year 3-5 years ago where a nice improvement in safety regulations occurred. Offer tax incentives for trading in a vehicle 12 years old or older on the purchase of one of these. That limits sales to dealerships, but that’s the plan.

    Call it a Citizens Safety Initiative.

    The truth is, the safety improvements are significant enough to get thinking people out of their older cars. The rollover standard is a total joke and will be until dynamic testing is required, but most other things are a measurable improvement.

    Here is how to properly test roof strength:
    http://www.citizen.org/autosafety/rollover/crashwrth_/articles.cfm?ID=17995

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    made to fail programs like 15% off on insulation products for your house, and other “Gee, I can’t wait to take that offer up!” bullshit.…

    BS? Really! I cut my home’s energy use in half by insulation and a variety of other “bullshit” and would have loved to have the government give me a 15% discount. Of course, with such a program you have to look out for the opportunistic “capitalist” scum who jacks up his price by 15%…

    Regarding clunker bills…they really don’t make any sense. Decent cars are always worth more than the paltry offer. If emission reduction is really the goal, maintain a stringent I/M program. Ironically, with new cars going for such discounts, used car values are sure to plummet. It will not make economic sense to plow $1500 into a 12 year old car for a new transmission. I suspect that the boneyards will begin to fill with cars that are pretty intact.

  • avatar
    Geo. Levecque

    The Tory dream of getting rid of older vehicles for $300.00 Can is just a dream for them, in effort to get rid of pollution they should concentrate on all those fumes coming from 2 cycle Snow Blowers and Lawn Mowers as they pollute more than my 1988 GMC Van does, I dont use my Van in the winter months, but do use it in warmer times and yes we have lots of Snow here, 6ft of Snow is common, as well as -15C temperatures, I still use a Block heater on my Toyota product too.

  • avatar
    chnaane

    Canadian new-vehicle emission certification standards have been identical to U.S. standards since the 1985 model year. That’s why non-U.S. cars like carbureted Volvo 240s disappeared from Canadian dealer showrooms abruptly after 1984. I don’t believe there is any factual basis for the “nineteen times cleaner” claim.

    CarPerson: Your assertion “the safety improvements are significant enough to get thinking people out of their older cars” appears to be based on your guess that there was “a year 3-5 years ago where a nice improvement in safety regulations occurred”. In fact, there wasn’t. For considerably longer than your 3-5 year figure, North American vehicle safety regulations have not changed so as to substantially improve vehicle safety. If we were talking about European ECE regulations, you might have a solid case, but not in North America.

    Psarhjinian: Your remarks about emission testing being a crock, V8s being held to standards they never could have met, et cetera, show that you have a poor understanding of the differences between local and global emissions issues, and between new-vehicle emission certification tests and vehicle-in-use emission tests.


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