Cash for Clunkers Gets $2 Billion Extension

The federal Car Allowance Rebate System gets a hurried funding boost so Americans can continue cashing in their clunkers for cars that are more fuel-efficient.

| Aug. 12, 2009

  • Cash for Clunkers
    Out with the old: Some dealerships, such as this one in Sierra Vista, Ariz., have set up creative and conspicuous displays to advertise their participation in the Cash for Clunkers program.

  • Cash for Clunkers

President Obama signed a bill last week that directs another $2 billion to the Cash for Clunkers program, officially known as the Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS).

Originally funded at $1 billion, the CARS program officially took effect in late July, but dealers were permitted to provide rebates starting July 1. The program proved popular, raising concerns that the rebates would need to be halted in early August. To keep the program going, Congress hurried to pass HR 3435, which draws $2 billion from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Innovative Technology Loan Guarantee Program, under the assumption that DOE will not spend all the money allocated to that program by the end of the year. The funds are available to the CARS program through September 30, 2010.

Although critics of the program thought the fuel economy requirements were too weak, the results from July indicate that consumers are voluntarily purchasing more fuel-efficient vehicles than those required by the program. As Obama noted, “The initial transactions are generating a more than 50 percent increase in fuel economy; they are generating $700 to $1,000 in annual savings for consumers in reduced gas costs alone; and they are getting the oldest, dirtiest and most air-polluting trucks and SUVs off the road for good.” Those results also drew support for the added funds from the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE), which noted that vehicles purchased under the program are averaging close to 10 miles per gallon better than the vehicles they are replacing.

The program also had a noticeable impact on vehicle sales in July: The seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of car and light truck sales for July reached 11.24 million vehicles. The SAAR adjusts the monthly sales data to account for seasonal lulls and surges in sales, and extends it for the full year. The SAAR for U.S. car and light truck sales fell from 12.57 million in September 2008 to 10.82 million the following month, and remained below 10 million for the first six months of this year before reviving in July.

Sales are still down from July 2008, although Ford Motor Company saw a 10.3 percent year-to-year increase in car sales, which it credited to the rebate program. American Honda Motor Company and General Motors Corporation (GM) also saw increased sales of their fuel-efficient vehicles, and Volkswagen of America saw increased sales of its clean diesel vehicles.

The CARS program did have one glitch, however: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency posted more precise fuel economy data for older cars on on July 24, causing 78 cars to become ineligible, while adding 86 previously unqualified cars to the list. To be fair to people who acted on the earlier information, those that traded in the now-ineligible vehicles on or before July 24 will still earn the rebate.

8/17/2009 8:30:34 AM

C4C is a bad idea that merely sounds good to those of us driving older vehicles. But read between the lines; decent, usable vehicles are being trashed for no good reason other than you can get government help getting a newer 'shinnier' one. Government help!? It is our tax dollars and a bigger deficiet that is paying for these vehicles. This is wasteful and only hurts our pocket books in the long run.

Glen Barnes_6
8/15/2009 1:16:43 PM

There are a lot of good usable cars being trashed in C4C. Already the price of used cars is rising and the $3000/$5000 range is disappearing. What are they going to do when everyone that wants a new car gets one and sales dry up? Having been in the auto repair business for over 40 years I don't see much good coming from C4C.

8/14/2009 12:43:50 PM

Well, I'm very excited to say that on Sunday I will be trading in a 95 Suburban that has been sitting my driveway for the last year +, and in my parents driveway for a couple years before that. While I am definitely not a fan of the Feds getting their noses into something like this, I figure I might as well take some of that 3 Billion my son and his children will be paying back. At least Mama gets a Prius out of all this mess. Also, I'd like to point out to people that I have seen quite a few new Denali's/Tahoes and other midsize SUVS driving arounfd town. Not that I know that they were bought with Cash for Clunkers help, but I certainly will be hoping that your president decides to release the sales information being requested of him. Hopefully before a lawsuit is brought against him that I, my son, grandchildren, etc. will get to pay for. To those of you who haven't heard of Seed Savers Exchange - look them up. A very neat program and I am growing some super cool, funky flowers and veggies this year.

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