[The] government-funded “Cash For Clunkers” program …did just what it set out to do: get old, low-mileage cars off the road and stimulate auto sales in the U.S.
That may come as a surprise, given the sharp criticism leveled at the program last year. On the one hand, some folks claimed that the program was an ineffective economic stimulus; they argued that it mostly helped people who were already planning on buying a car, rather than stimulating new sales. On the other hand, some felt it did too little to reduce gas consumption—and pointed out that some buyers simply traded an old pickup for a new one.
But now that the dust has settled, it seems that the program was at least modestly effective in meeting both economic and environmental goals. On the environmental side, the new vehicles sold under the program used 38 percent less gas per mile than the clunkers that got traded in. Of course, I still wonder how much of that MPG gain you can attribute to the Cash for Clunkers program, as opposed to just general industry and consumer trends. Still, those numbers are at least consistent with the claim that Cash for Clunkers did help trim the nation’s appetite for gas. And now, on the stimulus side, Maritz found that the Clunkers program really did spur additional sales of more-efficient vehicles, rather than just shifting the timing around a bit.
So it seems that some folks have given the Cash for Clunker tires a good kick, and concluded that the program was no lemon.