By all accounts, the “Cash for Clunkers” program seems to be a success. Sales are up at dealerships to levels not seen in a couple of years. Plus low-MPG cars are being taken off the road and being replaced by more fuel-efficient models.
Unbeknownst to many, this program is based on programs launched in Germany (Strudel-for-Clunkers) and France (Crepes-for-Clunkers) late last year and earlier this year. Those programs were also wildly successful, although they offered much higher amounts for trade-ins and didn’t have as many restrictions as the US programs. Those programs were more about taking high-polluting cars off the road rather than reducing low-MPG cars (since cars in Europe have been much higher-MPG for a long time).
There were two criticisms of the European programs that we haven’t heard much here in the US. The first was from independent mechanics who complained that taking older cars off the road was affecting their livelihood. Fewer old crappy cars mean fewer trips to the local mechanic. The second criticism was from the enthusiast community. Folks were turning in cars that could be considered “future classics” which were then destroyed.
I am not sure why we are not hearing from mechanics in the US. Although, if my local mechanic is any indication, they have more business than they can handle and a few less clunkers probably isn’t affecting them at this point. As for the silence from US enthusiasts, I think they are largely silent due to the fact that the majority of clunkers being taken off the road are pick-ups and SUVs, which have little likelihood of becoming classics. Even so, I am sure there is the odd future classic that is being crushed. Too bad there is no flexibility in the government guidelines to allow a knowledgeable dealer/junk yard to exempt a vehicle if it has significant potential for parts or future collector status.
(Thanks to Scott Snyder for inspiring this post.)