By on June 4, 2010

Anyone still feel like arguing that Cash For Clunkers was a good use of nearly $3b? [Coyoteblog, via Instapundit]

By on January 22, 2010

Now that Japan has said kankei nai ne (who cares, not worth the trouble) and opened their cash for clunkers program to American imports, even if they did not go through mandatory homologation, and even if they weren’t rated by the Japanese government to get 35.5 mpg or better, which car is the first to qualify? You are looking at it – very closely. It’s a, it’s a, it’s a … (Read More…)

By on January 20, 2010

You’ll pry my Escalade from my cold three fingers. Picture courtesy blogcdn.com

Today’s Nikkei [sub] clarified the Japanese position on US cars qualifying for Nipponese cash fur clunkers money. The program offers up to 250,000 yen ($2,800) in subsidies to buyers of cars that meet Japanese fuel efficiency standards.

According to the Nikkei, about 30 percent of U.S. imports to Japan enter the country through the “Preferential Handling Procedure,” that does not require them to pass Japanese fuel efficiency tests. These cars, which had been excluded from the program, will now be considered – based on mileage data collected in the U.S.  Good luck with that. (Read More…)

By on January 13, 2010

They all qualify. Picture courtesy japanesenostalgiccar.com

The nerve, the nerve: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada when they met – halfway in Hawaii, so that both had to travel – on Tuesday “that concerns are rising in the U.S. Congress” about Japan’s cash for clunkers incentive scheme, Reuters reports.

As if there aren’t other pressing problems. Such as the economy, global warming, saving the whales, or saving the Marines on Okinawa. (Well, they discussed the Marines. Inconclusively.)

Under the belated Japanese C4C scheme, consumers get up to $2,800 if they trade in their 13 year or older car for new vehicle that meets the 2010 fuel economy standard of 35.5 mpg.  So far, so good. (Read More…)

By on January 6, 2010

Cash for Clunkers was set up very quickly, and there hasn’t been an accounting of the administrative costs of the program. There also hasn’t been publicly available information about how contractors were picked to process the thousands of transactions that the program generated… My concern is the waste, fraud and abuse that may have resulted from the vulnerabilities that can come with such a quick start.

Senator Chuck Grassley sticks it to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, in a letter requesting a full accounting of the cash for clunker program. The DOT was all over fraudulent commercial practices during C4C, but this is the first investigation into possible fraud or overruns on the administration side. Why Grassley waited until now to look into this doesn’t exactly compute, but it will still be interesting to see the results of the audit. After all, could it even be possible that the government spent $3b in a matter of weeks on a consumer incentive without fraud of some kind taking place?

By on January 3, 2010

 Highly polluted. Picture courtesy life.com

As countries in Europe wind down their cash for clunkers programs, China is increasing the bounty on old cars. China’s Ministry of Commerce said that qualified car owners who trade in outdated or “highly polluted” vehicles will receive a subsidy between US$733 and $2635 this year, up from last year’s maximum $878, reports Shanghai Daily.
(Read More…)

By on December 21, 2009

Pile it on. Picture courtesy motorzeitung.de

Each year, the „Gesellschaft für deutsche Sprache“ (association for the German language) selects its word of the year. This year, the German WOTY is, you guessed it …
(Read More…)

By on December 10, 2009

To qualify for Japan’s cash-for-clunker program, new vehicles must meet the 2010 fuel economy standard of 35.5 mpg, making 87 percent of Japanese-made vehicles on sale in their home market eligible for the credit of up to $2,800. In fact, the Japanese program doesn’t even require a clunker (MY 1996 or older) to trade in, although without giving up an inefficient vehicle, the best credit available is a mere $1,132. But the American Automotive Policy Council calls these rules “unfair,” telling the Freep:

We urge the U.S. government to make clear that it cannot tolerate this outright discrimination, particularly at a time when it has provided substantial direct financial support for Japanese automakers in this market

Huh? Is the AAPC talking about America’s cash-for-clunker program, which (like Japan’s) sent Honda and Toyota sales soaring? Or the $1.6b DOE “ATVML” loans that Nissan got, which were dwarfed by the same program’s generosity towards Ford? Or perhaps the $82b+ TARP bailout that… oh wait, that all went to Detroit. Ok, let’s forget about America’s “substantial direct financial support for Japanese automakers” for a second and figure out just how unfair this Japanese program is.

(Read More…)

By on December 7, 2009

Kaboom! (courtesy:calculatedriskblog.com)

From the Calculated Risk Blog comes this manifestation of the cash-for-clunker boom, as measured by Google’s auto buyer index. Because of seasonal downturn, it seems that pull-forward may not have been as devastating as was once thought. But will next January see the usual post-holiday recovery again?

By on November 2, 2009

Mission Accomplished! Or not. (courtesy:egmcartech)

More new information from today’s GAO post:

Moreover, whether enough time has passed for the impact of the structural changes to be seen is unlikely, especially given that the automakers have not completed restructuring, the economy is still recovering, and new vehicle purchases remain at low levels. For instance, although the federal Car Allowance Rebate System program resulted in a sales spike in August,16 September sales returned to historically low levels. These and other challenges are likely to delay the companies’ recovery beyond what it would be under more favorable economic circumstances.

As TTAC noted last Friday, “finding a real, sustainable bottom of the market from which to grow is not made easier by erratic bursts of stimulus frenzy.”

By on May 5, 2009

In a follow up to E. Niedermeyer’s previous post, details have emerged about the scheme to give rebates to buyers who trade “clunkers” for new, fuel-efficient vehicles. FT.com (Financial Times) reports that the program will cost taxpayers about $4 billion and will spur, according Brian Johnson, an analyst at Barclays Capital, the sale of 3 million units in the “near term” (whatever that means). With the US’ SAAR projected at approximately 9 million, this is a very optimistic prediction.

(Read More…)

By on February 5, 2009

Here’s a surprise: American cars hold their value much better than other major markets, including Japan and Europe. Cost of ownership is the culprit. In the US, owning a car generates relatively little in the way of year-to-year expenses. Registration is usually about $30. Inspections are infrequent and rarely costly. While the repairs required to keep a “beater” on the road can reach four figures, they rarely exceed the value of the vehicle itself. As a result, it’s unusual to see a used vehicle in America (even “heaps”) listed for sale under $1k. Also as a result, the cash-for-clunkers proposals, as envisioned, are a horrible idea.

In an effort to boost sales, the German government has been running a “cash for clunkers” program. The government is offering 2,500 Euros for any eligible old car traded in towards a new car purchase. After some initial cheering, the program has been leaning toward scandal land. The reason for this nexus: gaps.

Gap number one: used car values. Overseas, licensing and stringent test regimes make the cost of auto parts a far more daunting proposition than it is in The Land of the Free. Tax laws favoring company/fleet purchases create [even] dramatic depreciation for mass market models. These factors mean that the market value of a “tradable” used car is much less than it’s “government” trade-in value.

The other gap—and the source of many of the “issues” surrounding the cash-for-clunkers program—lies between a car’s “inflated” trade-in value and the cost of a new car.

At best, the money garnered from the government for a clunker represents about a 25 percent down payment on a new car. That’s at the low end. For a more middle-market car, the clunker check accounts for less than 10 percent of the cleaner, greener machine’s purchase price. On top of that, the sort of person who would be buying a €10K car is the one least likely to get financing to close the “gap”.

The sharp end solution to this gap is simple: People who can afford new cars will buy (from a private owner) a “junker” to trade. The junker’s former owner will take a fee (maybe 1000 Euros) and use the money to buy a non-tradeable old car. Hopefully a better one, but not necessarily.

Despite/because of these economics, it seems that everyone wins (and the old cars get taken out of circulation). In practice, no.

The biggest problem with Germany’s cash-for-clunkers program: it takes something that is normally not very valuable (a German jalopy) and increase its value several-fold by attaching a couple of documents. Throw in the fact that the money “pool” supporting the program is “first come, first served,” and you get fraud on an impressively large scale.

TTAC’s Bertel Schmitt has been connecting the dots between the environmentalists’ and the mob’s green dreams. Apparently some of the trade-ins are doing it the Chicago way (early and often), and aren’t even getting scrapped. This makes a mess of the real purpose of the program (culling clunkers), while doing nothing to increase sales (the spoonful of sugar to make the green stuff go down easier).

It’s a stark warning to Americans contemplating the wisdom of the whole cash-for-clunkers concept. But is the devil in the details? Could CforC be done “properly”?

First, you’d need to make the scrap credit what it is: a simple payment above salvage value to take a heap off the road. Second, you need to make the payment lower (say $1,500 or even $1,000). Third, you need to extend it to ALL eligible vehicles and run it through salvage yards (therefore only one set of books to check).

In effect, the goal would be to get “heap” drivers into a slightly newer, slightly nicer “heap.”

Aside from aesthetics and a marginal pollution reduction, the greatest benefit would be to reduce the total vehicle population on the road. This will eventually help the new car market but not for a few years and not for the reason you’d think.

While new vehicle sales had been running high until last year, the “scrap rate” has held steady at about 12.5 million a year for the last decade. Sales have far exceeded that rate; that is one reason the US has 250 million cars for 200 million licensed drivers.

A targeted cull would aim to increase the scrap rate, to 15 million annually. Make no mistake, doing it right would not be cheap, I reckon $5b dollars a year (3.5 million times $1,500) ought to do it.

Reducing the absolute number of cars would help heal the damage years of “fire sales” have had on used car prices. Getting used car prices back near “normal” would help sales down the road. But would it be worth the cost? In Bailout Nation, cost owns you.

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