By on August 7, 2009

The autoblogosphere is abuzz with debate over the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) list of the top ten Cash for Clunking vehicles. To say the least. Edmunds [via CNN] reports that the DOT counted vehicles EPA-style, tallying differing powertrain or drive wheel combinations separately. For example, the DOT rates a Ford Escape with two wheel-drive as a distinct model from a Ford Escape with all wheel-drive. If you’re Edmunds (or any one else with an ounce of common sense), you combine all the model variants’ sales totals into one stat. And if you do that, you get a horse of a different color. The implication making the rounds: the DOT manipulated the data to hide the fact that a brace of SUVs and pickup trucks made the top ten; the Cash for Clunkers program is supposed to be about saving the environment. Yes, well, high margin pickup trucks offer the best chance of saving the domestics. So, let’s compare the DOT list (as of August 7) with Edumunds’ take . . .

Rank DOT Edmunds
1. Toyota Corolla Ford Escape
2. Ford Focus Ford Focus
3. Honda Civic Jeep Patriot
4. Toyota Prius Dodge Caliber
5. Toyota Camry Ford F-150
6. Hyundai Elantra Honda Civic
7. Ford Escape (FWD) Chevrolet Silverado
8. Dodge Caliber Chevrolet Cobalt
9. Honda Fit Toyota Corolla
10. Chevrolet Cobalt Ford Fusion

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46 Comments on “Edmunds: DOT’s Cash for Clunkers Top Ten List Gets It Wrong...”


  • avatar
    wsn

    I agree with the article. DOT’s way is more politically correct, since small cars are on the top.

    Edmund’s way is more accurate and revealing. 2 of the top 3 are SUV’s. People cannot help but questioning either Chairman Obama’s true intention with C4C or his IQ.

  • avatar
    SkiD666

    Well at least what Edmunds found clarifies why GM sold the most vehicles under the program with only one car in DOT’s top 10 list.
    It also helps explain Lutz’s comments about ramping up truck production.

    BTW, does Ford have vehicles left on their lots?

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    So, which list do we want? The one that says C4C is a failure because only four vehicles on the list come from a domestic automatier, or the one that says C4C is a failure because eight vehicles on this list come from a domestic automaker (with only three of those vehicles are compacts)?

  • avatar
    kipling

    Exactly my thought, quasimondo.

    Also, the only people with the real data is the DOT, and they aren’t giving it out right now. Edmunds is based off dealers numbers. Does it really make sense that the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla invert positions? Did those 969 Hybrids they sold in July ’09 really cause the inversion?

  • avatar
    gslippy

    It doesn’t matter what’s on the list. The CFC rules require the new vehicle to achieve better fuel economy than the old one.

    All of these vehicles meet that criterion, whether they are a truck or car.

  • avatar
    richeffect

    Very enlightening. It made me realize that candidates for C4C are most likely going to be truck owners that get below the 18mpg limit. Given that, the question that now pops into my mind is “If I drove a truck/suv and I had a chance to get a new vehicle under C4C, would I trade up for a subcompact?”

    Probably not.

  • avatar
    mwilbert

    I think people are missing the forest for the trees. If you looked at the top 10 list of cars that were being turned in, most of it was Ford Explorers. If people are swapping Explorers for Escapes, that is a huge mileage improvement, even if both are nominally SUVs. And a lot more plausible than people swapping Yukons for Priuses.

    You can argue that the whole idea is dumb, but it looks to be working as would be expected.

  • avatar

    Okay, I’m missing the point.

  • avatar
    Adub

    The point is that people are trading in older SUVs like the 1990s Firestone Ford Explorer for new SUVs and trucks.

    The DOT is manipulating the data (lying) so that everyone (and Congress) thinks that people are trading in their SUVs for shoe-boxes. That way the program looks like a winner to Congress (and gets more money) and some eco-weenie can make you buy a Focus because you think everybody else is doing the same.

  • avatar
    spyspeed

    Any way you slice the numbers, the C4C buyer is, above all else, a cheapskate.

  • avatar
    sco

    I’m with richeffect, c4c is an excellent opportunity to trade in your old gas-guzzling truck/SUV for a new (albeit slightly less)gas-guzzling truck/SUV. Some big vehicle lovers may see the light, most wont

    I have no explanation at all for the Dodge Caliber

  • avatar
    AMXtirpated

    Anybody who cares, check me on this:

    Edmunds ranked vehicles by “Share of sales with clunker trade-ins”, so multiplying the total sales of that model by the reported percentage to obtain the total C4C sales will allow a ranking of C4C related sales, which seems to me to be what we should be after here, no?

    Ford F-150 (2.9% * 36,327 = 1,053)
    Ford Focus (4.5% * 21,830 = 982)
    Ford Escape (4.8% * 20,241 = 971)
    Honda Civic (2.9% * 30,037 = 871)
    Chevrolet Silverado 1,500 ( 2.6% * 27,617 = 718)
    Toyota Corolla (2.3% * 29,593 = 680)
    Ford Fusion (2.2% * 17,610 = 387)
    Jeep Patriot (3.6% * 8,084 = 291)
    Dodge Caliber (3.1% * 7,814 = 242)
    Chevrolet Cobalt (2.5% * 9,435 = 235)

    Fractions dropped. Trust, but verify. TTAC needs to allow HTML tables.

  • avatar
    paulie

    It doesn’t matter if the real meaning of C4C is being misunderstood here.
    Yes, a better MPG car OR truck is OK.
    BUT, RF is trying to explain the crap being broadcast by the plan(ers).
    This was supposed to help our evironment.
    One of the big backers of the plan is the evironmentalist.
    And seeing trucks…any trucks…on this list must be chilling.

    As for me, ANY cash from me to somebody else sucks.
    I don’t give a damn what you want or need.
    If you can’t afford it, you don’t buy it.
    Car, truck, house…whatever.
    How’s that for an idea.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    The big news to me if that Ford is doing extremely well. I’m happy for them. Together with Honda and Toyota, they are the new ‘Big Three’.

  • avatar
    dwford

    What? No Jeep Compass?? Even with $4500 government cheese Jeep can’t move those pigs?

  • avatar
    marshall

    Just remember: trading in a 12 MPG truck for a 18 MPG one saves more gas over a year than trading in a 25 MPG sedan for a 50 MPG subcompact.

    10K miles/12 MPG –> 833 gallons
    10K miles/18 MPG –> 556 gallons
    Total savings: 277 gallons.

    10K miles/25 MPG –> 400 gallons
    10K miles/50 MPG –> 200 gallons
    Total savings: 200 gallons.

    The big wins are at the bottom of the gas mileage range.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    If you look at the data the way the goverment parsed the data, the Japanese automakers were big winners. If you go with Edmunds’ cut of the data, it looks like the US based companies are the big winners.

    So, pick what you are mad about.

    1) That so many of the vehicles sold have Japanese nameplates.

    or

    2) That many of the replacement vehicles are small CUVs.

    BTW, if you actually read the Edmunds Press Release, it is generally quite positive on the effects of the C4C program and mentions that it has had a huge effect on increased buying action even from people without a clunker deal.

    http://www.autoobserver.com/2009/08/cash-for-clunkers-drives-consumers-to-fuel-efficient-choices-edmundscom-reports.html

  • avatar
    ChevroletGuy

    Awesome. Way to go GM and Ford. Toyota sucks.

  • avatar
    Demetri

    “I have no explanation at all for the Dodge Caliber”

    Most of the people using this program don’t mind crappy cars. They were perfectly fine with driving POS Blazers and Explorers until the government paid them not to. The Caliber probably makes them feel right at home.

    Oh, I’m not bitter at all about subsidizing people to buy SUVs and trucks. Well, maybe when the clunker money dries up, the market will go back down the tubes and the factory rebates will come back and the rest of us can get a good deal on a new car.

    “Awesome. Way to go GM and Ford. Toyota sucks.”

    The Super Chevy message boards are that way.

  • avatar
    Boff

    Did the DOT change their way of enumerating vehicle sales to make C4C look better? No, it looks to me as if they just kept on doing it the way they always have, which I’ll grant does paint a misleading picture. But as much as the rabble would like this to be about gummint nefariousness, it doesn’t wash in this case.

    As others have pointed out, even the Edmunds ranking does not illustrate completely the effects of C4C, as we need to know the percentage of purchases truly motivated by C4C as well as the aggregate decrease in fuel consumption accruing from these deals.

  • avatar

    There are only two large vehicles on the list, the Chevy & Ford pickups, which as the best selling vehicles in North America, make sense being on the list.

    Ford took four spots, but then Ford Explorers take 5 spots on the clunker trade in list (they sold a lot of Explorers in the 1990s). Likewise, I’m guessing that a lot of those Jeep Cherokees like the one we saw in that video are being traded in on Patriots – the only halfway decent car of the C class Chrysler triplets.

    It’s interesting how some cited the DOT list as proof that people aren’t willing to buy cars from the American mfgs but the Edmunds list shows that is not the case.

  • avatar
    tooling designer

    America. Fuck Yeah!

  • avatar
    Spitfire

    How did the Cobalt suddenly beat the Corolla? Maybe I’m missing something here but there isn’t an AWD or hybrid variant of the Cobalt like there is a Fusion, right?

    I must be missing something…

    And after looking a bit more would they really split up coupe and sedan? That would really screw up the numbers in favor of cars with only varying trim levels verses anything truly substantial.

  • avatar
    paulie

    I just left our local Ford/Lin/Merc dealer.
    Friday evening, 5PM.

    Not one new Taurus.
    Not one new MKS.
    Only ONE Flex, and the owner’s wife had it.

    How the hell can you sell cars WITHOUT CARS!?

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    paulie, do you live near Florence SC by chance?

  • avatar
    Dukeboy01

    I would suspect that the Dodge caliber made the list due to the “Double C4C” money that Chrysler was offerring in the early days of the program. The Caliber’s a piece of crap, but there are a lotta of folks who would love to take $9,000 off of a $15,000 car. Anyway you look at it, that’s a deal.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Yep, the Caliber cleared out at deep discount clearance prices. It isn’t a great car, but for $6000 it is a darn sight better than the POS things people turned in to get one!

  • avatar
    agenthex

    The two lists are really not that different. The only significant change is the inclusion of two trucks in the edumunds list. All compacts from major manufacturers like corolla, cobalt, civic, focus are still there.

  • avatar
    agenthex

    So looking at the actual edmunds press release:

    http://www.edmunds.com/help/about/press/154387/article.html

    It would seem that the CNN story (and thus this TTAC story) is wrong. The edmunds list is ranked by % of clunkers traded in, and not total sales.

    correction: I’m the one confused on this. It would seem the DOT uses a similar criteria.

    It should also be noted that the overall stats from the NHTSA are correct regardless of the accounting. For example, about 83% trucks traded in, vs. 40% purchased, average mileage improved 60%.

  • avatar
    paulie

    Steven Lang
    No.
    Outside Chicago, St Charles IL.
    Plus southern MO and Stuart FL.
    If you need a car talk get together…I’m there.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    the Cash for Clunkers program is supposed to be about saving the environment.

    It is? There is no stated goal(s) of the c4c program anywhere that I’ve seen. Not on the CARS website or in the legislation. It’s blathering from the president that people are getting some sense of a goal.

    But as stated as before, if there is no goal with some type of metric, and hence no way of measuring success or failure, it’s bad public policy.

  • avatar
    gimmeamanual

    Spitfire:

    I was confused as well, though I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that’s exactly what they did. Focus has 2-dr and 4-dr, one engine; Corolla has 2 engines, only 4-dr; Cobalt has 2 engines and 2-dr and 4-dr. So, what that tells me is the Corolla in the DOT numbers is the 1.8L 4-dr, which beats the 2.2L 4-dr Cobalt and 2.0L 4-dr Focus (calling these the “standard” models). The change comes in the model split; for the Cobalt and Focus to move ahead of the Corolla in the Edmunds list, it means that the other choices of the Focus and Cobalt, be they engine or bodystyle, are making up and passing the volume the additional choice of the 2.4L XRS model adds to Corolla numbers. So, while people overwhelmingly choose one style of Corolla, they are more split on Cobalts and Focuseseses.

    Or I could be talking out of my ass, as I haven’t looked at how DOT tallies it up. That’s what I come here for. Robert?

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    I would suspect that the Dodge caliber made the list due to the “Double C4C” money that Chrysler was offerring in the early days of the program. The Caliber’s a piece of crap, but there are a lotta of folks who would love to take $9,000 off of a $15,000 car. Anyway you look at it, that’s a deal.…

    Now picture needing a cheap used car three years from now, maybe a station car or car to park in the city. What do you think the resale on that Caliber is going to be? If you don’t mind driving such a penalty box, or you previous car was a total POS, three years from now you will be able to buy a used Caliber for $2000. For all intents and purposes, the car has become disposable, almost Yugo-like.

    By the way, does anybody think this program really was about the environment? Please, this was greenwashing at its finest. This program was about moving metal. With this kind of cash rebate from Uncle Sam, how tight a deal do you think the slimebag stealerships are going to cut? I’m willing to bet that’s why the “double” cash back at Chrysler died. The louses at Chrysler stores no doubt howled that they couldn’t jack up their margins with an advertised $4500 off. Now, they can. And with a sunset on the C4C program, buyers have limited time to act. So plenty of what the government is giving back to the consumer is being taken by the stealership because they will not negotiate as good a deal as before.

  • avatar
    agenthex

    So plenty of what the government is giving back to the consumer is being taken by the stealership because they will not negotiate as good a deal as before.

    I think in general if you’re enough of a tightwad to sit on a clunker AND have good credit/money stashed AND waited for this kind of deal to buy a car, chances are you’re not going to get easily taken.

  • avatar
    CarPerson

    AMXtirpated’s data that, on average, only 3% of a vehicle’s sales involve the CARS program is very very telling.

    The fact that 83% of the trade-ins were trucks is a trip through weasel-land where Detroit classified as many as their vehicles as they could as trucks to duck CAFE and other regulation. However, with only half that percent of true and mis-categorized trucks going out the door, America is clearly dropping down a notch or two in size in the CARS program.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Without context, neither list tells you much. If the top ten vehicles sold comprised a small percentage of the total, then the difference between the middle sellers and the top sellers would most likely be statistically insignificant, anyway.

    What would help is to just get a breakdown of all the trade ins and all of the vehicles sold. Then you could slice ‘em and dice ‘em into whatever permutations you like and get a big picture view. Here, we’re just seeing a slice, and we don’t even have any idea how big that slice is.

  • avatar
    CommanderFish

    For the Cobalt vs Corolla confusion, AMXtirpated already took care of that.

    Anybody who cares, check me on this:

    Edmunds ranked vehicles by “Share of sales with clunker trade-ins”, so multiplying the total sales of that model by the reported percentage to obtain the total C4C sales will allow a ranking of C4C related sales, which seems to me to be what we should be after here, no?

    Ford F-150 (2.9% * 36,327 = 1,053)
    Ford Focus (4.5% * 21,830 = 982)
    Ford Escape (4.8% * 20,241 = 971)
    Honda Civic (2.9% * 30,037 = 871)
    Chevrolet Silverado 1,500 ( 2.6% * 27,617 = 718)
    Toyota Corolla (2.3% * 29,593 = 680)
    Ford Fusion (2.2% * 17,610 = 387)
    Jeep Patriot (3.6% * 8,084 = 291)
    Dodge Caliber (3.1% * 7,814 = 242)
    Chevrolet Cobalt (2.5% * 9,435 = 235)

    Fractions dropped. Trust, but verify. TTAC needs to allow HTML tables.

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    An annoying aspect of C4C is that the cutoff MPG requirements are lower for new trucks than for new cars. Many performance cars don’t make the cut, yet they beat the (C4C acceptable) Silverado in MPG.

  • avatar

    C4C is very bad for charity car donation. The cars that normally would be donated to charity for a tax deduction are now being turned in for a C4C voucher. In order to qualify for the C4C voucher, a car has to be driveable. Once they are turned in the car dealer has to pour a chemical into the engine to destroy it. These running vehicles could be given to the needy or sold to generate money for the mission of the charity.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    +1 “Any way you slice the numbers, the C4C buyer is, above all else, a cheapskate.”

    From what I’m seeing, at least some of these c4c tradeins are vehicles that if they were well kept would be worth more than the clunker numbers. This tells us something about who we taxpayers are subsidizing with this program.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am not blaming people who buy under this program. Given that the laws of this country are generally written by rich people for rich people, when a government law or program allows me to save money I otherwise couldn’t, I will generally do it, since I am not rich except in the eyes of Barack 0bama, who promises to increase taxes on only the rich people. Nevertheless, I would not trade a car under this program; I don’t think I have ever owned a car that I detested enough to let that be done to it.

    In fact, if I were looking for a cheap car, I’d be hanging around dealers right now, watching the c4c tradeins and maybe offering to match the government’s offer on something.

  • avatar
    Odomeater

    I can assure you that Chevy Silverado is in pretty low supply right now and Cobalts are pretty much all gone by now.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    An interesting aside: I did the research and discovered that in California at least, the portion of a new vehicle purchase which is made with a CARS voucher ($3500 or $4500) is not be treated as taxable for sales tax purposes. Normally when a customer trades in a car on a new vehicle in California, sales tax is collected even on the amount of the transaction paid for by the value of the traded in vehicle.

    Most parts of CA have a 9.25% sales tax, so a $4500 CARS voucher actually reduces the transaction price by $4916.

    “The CAR Allowance Rebate System (CARS) – a.k.a. “Cash for Clunkers”, is a $1 billion government program helping consumers buy or lease a more environmentally friendly vehicle from a participating dealer when they trade in a less fuel-efficient car or truck. Consumers will receive a $3,500 or $4,500 discount from the car dealer when they trade in their old vehicle and purchase or lease a new one.

    According to the California State Board of Equalization, rebates paid by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to new car dealers under the “cash for clunkers” program are considered “sales” to the U.S. government. As a result, California sales tax is inapplicable to sales to the United States or its instrumentalities.

    The portion of the gross receipts from the sale or lease of a new vehicle paid by the NHTSA by the use of the rebate is a nontaxable sale to the United States.”

    http://www.speedtax.com/blog/2009/07/30/california-provides-sales-tax-guidance-on-cash-for-clunkers/

  • avatar
    John Horner

    “Now picture needing a cheap used car three years from now, maybe a station car or car to park in the city. What do you think the resale on that Caliber is going to be? If you don’t mind driving such a penalty box, or you previous car was a total POS, three years from now you will be able to buy a used Caliber for $2000.”

    Nonsense. There is no well cared for, under 60k mile three year old used car or truck of any make or model which sells for anything even close to $2000. Look it up on Edmunds, AutoTrader or anywhere else. Three year old (2007 model) Calibers are selling for $9k or more right now.

    People seem to keep forgetting that the majority of new vehicle purchasers don’t have a qualifying clunker to trade. Thus the value of new and lightly used vehicles isn’t being hammered in the same way that across the board $4500 additional discounts/rebates would do. In fact, the increased demand is actually lifting the value of new and lightly used cars a bit.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    To the idea that Cash For Clunkers is depriving charities of needed donations:

    “At Good News Garage in Burlington, they’re as busy as ever fixing up donated vehicles to sell cheaply or to provide to low-income families. They worried Cash for Clunkers would mean fewer gifts. But when the non-profit learned most cars need to get 18 miles a gallon to qualify for the government incentive, most of those worries went away.

    Director Mike Muzzy says, “People in general don’t want those cars. You and I don’t want them, low-income families don’t need them either. They need fuel-efficient, dependable, safe cars.”

    The group has actually seen more donors come through who weren’t eligible for Cash for Clunkers, but whose new car dealers suggested they call Good News Garage to get a tax write-off and give another family a boost. “They still want to do something good with the car and we’re the outlet for that,” says Muzzy.”

    http://www.wcax.com/global/story.asp?s=10839991

    So, put a fork in the C4C hurts charities canard. Speaking of which, do you know where many of the charity donation cars actually end up? The scrap yard is where. Many of the vehicles at the local pik-n-pull have window markings showing that they passed through various charity donation schemes.

  • avatar

    For those talking smack about the lack of Japanese models on Edmund`s list, think long-term. I expect the Japanese to improve substantially in the coming months.

  • avatar
    Norma

    For anyone with interest in finding out the true picture of new vehilces purchased under CARS, see http://www.cars.gov/files/official-information/new-model-vehicles.pdf, info updated to Sep 9 based on info submitted for the rebate. The list by Edmunds is quite far away from NHTSA’s data. Jeep Patriot and Dodge Caliber sold about 7,000 each, whereas the top seller, Corolla sold more than 29,000. The only omission from DOT’s top ten list are two trucks: Ford F-150 and Chevy Silverado, which sold about 16,000 each under the program.


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