Cash for Clunkers Ends Under Budget, Sort Of

August 26, 2009


Car dealers are happy, the White House may be happy--and taxpayers might be happy, depending on their point of view, that the Cash for Clunkers program ("CARS") ended this past weekend under its final $3 billion budget.

The Associated Press estimates the sales stemming from the $3500 to $4500 rebates for old gas-guzzling cars produced about 700,000 new-vehicle sales, after two years of sales declines in the U.S. auto market.

The final tally for sales of 690,114 clunker trade-ins translates into $2.88 billion spent on the clunker rebates, the AP adds. That's under the final allocated amount, but significantly more than the $1 billion initially set aside for the program.

Dealers may have generated many new sales, but plenty were frustrated by the program--and remain so, since not all the rebate checks from the government to dealers have been issued.

They may have more reason to sour on the program. Some analysts feel the program only pulled ahead sales from the months ahead; while annualized sales in July rose to 11.2 million units, the highest in 2009, the removal of the stimulus is expected to return sales to around 10 million units on an annual basis.

Among the other winners in the Cash for Clunkers program: Toyota, Nissan and Honda, which claimed 41 percent of the new-vehicle sales the CARS program generated. The Detroit automakers accounted for 39 percent of all sales.

The most popular vehicles bought in exchange for clunkers? The Toyota Corolla and Camry, Honda Civic and Ford Focus, all made in America. The most often traded clunkers were also American-made--among them, the Ford Explorer, the Ford F-150 pickup truck, and the Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV.

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