Clunker Love, American Style

March 18, 2009
Ohio Representative Betty Sutton

Ohio Representative Betty Sutton

A couple of days ago, we mentioned that Germany's "Cash for Clunkers" program was going gangbusters and that the U.K. and China were implementing variations of their own. We also said that the U.S. congress was considering similar options, and that we'd update you soon.

Well, soon is now.

Ohio Representative Betty Sutton (Democrat, and incidentally one of The Hill's "Most Beautiful People of 2008") is introducing a bill to give American car buyers some relief on the lots. Here are the high points of Sutton's plan--which is called, perhaps too cleverly, the Consumer Assistance to Recycle and Save bill, or CARS Act:

  1. Giving $5,000 vouchers to folks buying cars assembled in America. (Cars assembled outside the U.S. would earn a $4,000 voucher.)
  2. Giving an extra-special $7,500 voucher toward the purchase of any vehicle that's both made in America and gets 100mpg.
  3. Trade-ins must be at least eight years old.
  4. Purchased vehicles must be new, and they must be more fuel-efficient than the vehicle being traded in.
  5. Car owners who just want to scrap the damn thing and take the bus (or train or ferry or magic dolphin jet or whatever) are eligible for a mass transit voucher.
  6. All vehicles turned in must be "crushed or recycled". (We assume that means truly recycled, not just sent to some federally funded chop-shop.)

No word on whether first-time auto buyers will qualify for the voucher. We suppose that depends on whether the goal is to sell cars in volume or simply to replace older ones with newer models. We're also not entirely sure whether this will help the Big Three, since that first stipulation merely involves cars assembled here, not specifically those made by American automakers. Still, it's a step, right?

[sources: DetNews, Freep]

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