- The Washington Times - Friday, August 28, 2009

U.S. autos clunk

Data from the government’s cash-for-clunkers program are in, and results show it took nearly 700,000 mostly American-made cars off the road and replaced them with lots of foreign vehicles.

Although most of the cars swapped for clunkers were foreign brands, proponents of the program point out that many foreign automakers have manufacturing plants in the United States, which they say will help “create or save” 42,000 jobs in the second half of 2009.

“American consumers and workers were the clear winners, thanks to the cash-for-clunkers program,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said. “Manufacturing plans have added shifts and recalled workers. Moribund showrooms were brought back to life and consumers bought fuel-efficient cars that will save them money and improve the environment.”

To be eligible for the cash-for-clunkers program, which offered consumer rebates between $3,500 and $4,500 toward the purchase of a new car and ended Tuesday evening, consumers needed to swap an older car that got 18 miles per gallon or less for a newer, more fuel-efficient one. About 84 percent of consumers traded in trucks and 59 percent left with passenger vehicles.

“The program worked far better than anyone anticipated at moving consumers out of old, dirty trucks and SUVs and into more fuel-efficient cars,” the Department of Transportation said.

The most traded-in car was the Ford Explorer, and the most popular take-home vehicle was the Toyota Corolla.

The top 10 trade-in vehicles destroyed, as required by the program, were all American. Only two of the most popular take-home vehicles were.

The clunkers, beginning with the most traded-in: Ford Explorer 4WD, Ford F150 Pickup 2WD, Jeep Grand Cherokee 4WD, Ford Explorer 2WD, Dodge Caravan/Grand Caravan 2WD, Jeep Cherokee 4WD, Chevrolet Blazer 4WD, Chevrolet C1500 Pickup 2WD, Ford F150 Pickup 4WD and the Ford Windstar FWD Van.

The top 10 take-home cars, starting with the most popular were: Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, Toyota Camry, Ford Focus FWD, Hyundai Elantra, Nissan Versa, Toyota Prius, Honda Accord, Honda Fit and the Ford Escape FWD.

Buyer’s remorse

A survey conducted of 1,000 cash-for-clunkers participants by CNW Market Research, which tracks consumer trends, found those consumers had a much higher rate of buyer’s remorse than other car purchasers.

Normally, people who buy new cars have a buyer’s remorse rate somewhere between 6 percent and 8 percent, says the research company. Under cash for clunkers, 17 percent had doubts about their purchase, mostly because they regretted taking on a new car payment of between $275 to $350 a month.

Cash for convicts

The head of the Social Security Administration is defending his agency’s decision to send checks to convicts.

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