Domestics' Share of Cash for Clunkers Sales Shrinks; Toyota Tops the Table

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

The latest stats from the Department of Transportation reveal that Toyota has replaced General Motors at the top of the cash for clunkers (a.k.a. C.A.R.S.) program. The Detroit News reports that “Toyota has sold 18.9 percent of vehicles purchased through the clunkers program, surpassing GM, which has sold 17.6 percent . . . Detroit’s three automakers sold 42.1 percent of all clunker replacements, which is down from an initial 47 percent of sales — and slightly below the automakers’ 44 percent U.S. market share.” GM responded to the news by saying that while it appreciated the taxpayer’s help in driving demand, it was focusing all its energies on long term, sustainable growth. Just kidding. Spokesman Greg Martin told the DetN that “The sales will be a lot like the weather in Michigan in the springtime: It will change at any given time.” [Note to Greg: check your calendar.] ToMoCo was down with that . . .

“The jury is still out” on what company finishes first in sales, [Toyota spokesman Mike] Michels said. “There are a lot of variables at work, not the least of which is product availability, which is affecting everybody.

Some more than others. As 22 News (is that caliber?) reports, plenty o’ dealers are pissed off at Uncle Sam for C.A.R.S. payment delays. And plenty of consumer orgs are pissed off at the car dealers for transferring the “risk” onto their customers, as the LA Times reports.

In some cases, the groups said, dealers are requiring buyers to sign contracts obligating them to repay the program’s $3,500 or $4,500 rebate if the government denies the claim — despite a federal advisory stating that customers are not required to sign such agreements. Dealer associations in some states, although not in California, are providing the agreements on their websites for their members to use in clunker transactions.

Meanwhile, manufacturers are ramping up production, Big Style. Which could backfire, Bigger Style. If demand drops off just as fresh inventory reaches the front lines . . . Haig Stoddard, manager, North American light-vehicle production, for the Global Automotive Group of IHS Global Insight, told BNET that the risk is out there.

The automakers will be strongly tempted to cram as many sales as possible into the 2009 calendar year, to improve their financial results, Stoddard said in an Aug. 13 conference call. He warned the automakers against “giddiness . . . well, giddiness probably isn’t the word.”

Agreed. Grease is the word. And when that runs out, bad things could happen. Not that TTAC is unduly pessimistic or anything.

Robert Farago
Robert Farago

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  • Panzerfaust Panzerfaust on Aug 15, 2009

    The only thing worse than having to pay for GM and Chrysler's bailout (Ford has dipped its snout in the government trough too) is to use taxpayer supplied cash incentives to buy Toyotas. Talk about hitting yourself in the head with a hammer.

  • Fincar1 Fincar1 on Aug 15, 2009

    I was looking around at Mustangs before the c4c program went into effect. Now I've seen the lines of vehicles turned in for engine grenading; most of them seem to be perfectly decent-looking cars and pickups. (remember this is the largely salt-free Pacific northwest.) Given my general feelings about this program, I think the best thing for me to do is to refuse to set foot or wheel on any new car dealer's lot until after the end of the C4C program.