By on November 9, 2009

If you want it, you already got it. (courtesy

Some politicians who supported the Cash for Clunkers program didn’t want to be seen promoting a billion dollar (or three) bailout for car dealers, what with car dealers rating just above sex offenders as “people who I’d like to support with my taxes.” So, not surprisingly, the C4C bill was wrapped in a mantle of green; structured to reward buyers who traded gas guzzlers for [marginally] more fuel efficient vehicles. In practice, the “program mostly involved swaps of old Ford or Chevrolet pickups for new ones that got only marginally better gas mileage, according to an analysis of new federal data by The Associated Press. The single most common swap — which occurred more than 8,200 times — involved Ford F150 pickup owners who took advantage of a government rebate to trade their old trucks for new Ford F150s. They were 17 times more likely to buy a new F150 than, say, a Toyota Prius. The fuel economy for the new trucks ranged from 15 mpg to 17 mpg based on engine size and other factors, an improvement of just 1 mpg to 3 mpg over the clunkers.” It gets worse . . .

In scores of deals, the government reported spending a total of $562,500 in rebates for new cars and trucks that got worse or the same mileage as the trade-ins — in apparent violation of the program’s requirements. The government said it is investigating those reports and said in some cases they were probably entered incorrectly by dealers or based on outdated fuel economy figures.

So a $24K per car government subsidy and all I got is this lousy “Global Warming is a Crock of Shit” T-shirt? Oh wait; here it comes, THE HUMMER ANGLE!

In at least 145 cases, mostly involving trucks, the government reported consumers traded old vehicles that got better than or the same mileage as the new vehicle they purchased. The government said it was continuing to investigate. “It’s possible some quirky deal slipped through the cracks,” Anwyl said.

In at least 15 deals in nine states, owners of large pickups cashed in old trucks for between $3,500 and $4,500 toward new Hummer H3 SUVs that got only 16 mpg.

Bottom line: the Cash for Clunkers program certainly helped the domestics, whose largest profits come from sales of pickups and SUVs. Shall we call that a win, then?

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15 Comments on “Cash for Clunkers “Green” Goal a Flop...”

  • avatar

    The average fuel economy increase was 58%.

    You may want to re-evaluate your conclusions.


  • avatar

    There is no question C4C was a win. It not only sold a lot of vehicles it appears to have jump started the sales momentum as October sales weren’t a part of C4C. For all of the bailout and TARP funds spent to date there is no other expenditure of those funds that had an immediate, clear cut quantifiable result like C4C did. In this economy adding additional shifts at assembly plants and all the other economic benefits from the suppliers to the dealers to the transport drivers was a very good thing.

    Get over the C4C whining. The program was a total success. C4C accomplished a tremendous amount of financial activity that otherwise would not have occurred. And for all of those that insisted it was merely pulling the market ahead you were wrong.

  • avatar

    I do not support CFC because it is a welfare program.

    But pitting a 16 mpg Hummer against unnamed “old trucks” is just inciting class envy. If those “old trucks” only got 12 mpg, then the Hummer is “greener” and meets the intent of CFC.

  • avatar

    Using car sales as social policy is a bad idea and an inefficient use of scarce resources. Almost as bad as using mortgages as a form of welfare.

  • avatar
    Telegraph Road

    According to DOT, the average fuel economy of the vehicles traded in under CARS was 15.8 mpg and the average fuel economy of vehicles purchased is 24.9 mpg. The “most common swap” is completely irrelevant.

  • avatar

    Why would anyone think Obama is for green is beyond me.

    fewer cars = more green = fewer auto jobs
    more cars = more pollution = more auto jobs

  • avatar

    There is no question C4C was a win.

    Why don’t we just make it permanent then. And spread it throughout the economy. Let the refrigerator and big-screen TV makers benefit too.

    We consumers all have plenty of money to spend on these things. And the government does too. Our economy gets stimulated. It works for everyone!

  • avatar
    John Horner

    +1 TZ

    Also, the AP article presumes that the old trucks being scrapped were actually getting something like their original EPA estimated fuel economy. How much you want to bet that a lot of the scrapped vehicles were not performing as well as they did when new?

  • avatar

    I don’t think that this was a win for anyone. There were plenty of Camry’s, Corollas, Civics, and Priuses sold as a result of this as well, so it wasn’t on the Detroit three who were helped, for 1 month essentially.

    The people who traded the vehicles in either A) shouldn’t have because they new payments for the old vehicles are not a good thing, or B) don’t fall into A’s category and didn’t need the money to buy the vehicle. We put people more in debt to sell a few cars, and it cost me $$$ in taxes. That is a huge failure.

  • avatar

    I think a program needs to have a defined goal. In order to be considered a “win” it has to achieve that goal. What was the goal? To spend 24k for every 4k that ended up in consumers pockets? In that case it was a huge success. To drag sales forward, maybe. To green up the fleet, not at all. Not because of the mileage thing, rather, it should have been applied to older cars and trucks with less pollution controls and (probably) bad O2 sensors.

  • avatar

    +1 Steven02

    If you measure the success as moving metal then yes it worked, but my god was it ever horribly inefficient at it. The amount of money required by others to push a car off the lot was incredible.

    plus part of me just really really hates to see usable cars(or anything else) destroyed.

  • avatar

    This month’s Scientific American column by left-leaning economist Jeffrey Sachs says the same thing. Cash for Clunkers did not meet its “green” goals if by that you mean improving fuel efficiency.

    Did Cash for Clunkers improve average fuel efficiency? Yes, no question. But way too little for way too much money. That’s the problem.

  • avatar

    Ah, there’s that $24,000 per vehicle claim again that Edmunds can’t really explain, yet everyone keeps quoting.
    NADA’s chief economist says that it’s more like $4,600 and calls the Edmunds figure “overstated and misleading”.

  • avatar

    The whole green aspect should’ve never been in. CARS should have helped people who’s cars were older than 8-10 years old and had shitty resale values or where falling apart. My family would’ve gladly gotten rid of our piece of shit 2000 Kia Sephia with it’s $500 resale value but we couldn’t since the EPA rated it at 20 mpg.

  • avatar

    That green component for C4C was the biggest crock of shit for the program. Why would anyone trade a p/up for anything but a p/up? Even posing the question looks idiotic.

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