Americans keep on truckinÂ’ through Cash for Clunkers

Here’s a not-so-astonishing development: Thousands of Americans used the government subsidies of the Cash for Clunkers program this summer to pick up a new pickup truck, not to ditch an old gas guzzler for a fuel-efficient hybrid or other small vehicle.

That’s not surprising. As The Daily Sentinel and many other voices pointed out when Cash for Clunkers was winning approval in Congress, the legislation provided substantial incentives to purchase a new truck or sport-utility vehicle, so long as the new vehicle achieved at least 2 miles per gallon better fuel efficiency than the old one.

No one should blame savvy American truck owners for figuring that out, and taking advantage of the government assistance to acquire new pickups. According to an analysis of the Cash for Clunkers program by the Associated Press, swapping an old Chevy, Dodge or Ford pickup for a new one was the most common transaction under the Cash for Clunkers program.

There’s no question that Cash for Clunkers had a significant impact on the U.S. economy. Some economists have argued that it, combined with a tax credit for first-time homebuyers, was the most important factor driving the uptick in economic growth nationwide in the third quarter of this year. We are glad it did help U.S. automakers during a very difficult period.

But Cash for Clunkers was originally billed as a means to get old, high-fuel-consumption vehicles off the road in favor of newer ones with far better mileage ratings, thereby reducing both fuel consumption in this country and carbon dioxide emissions.

In that regard, based on the AP analysis, the program was a real clunker.


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