They used to call people cheaters…trading the clunkers

There was a headline in our local paper a couple weeks ago that read:

” Most common Clunkers deals did little to improve fuel efficiency” 

It an AP story written by Ted Bridis.

I’ll probably be quoting mostly from him. When I read the headline, the first thing I said was, “That figures.”

The program worked like this: Dealers let you know whether your trade qualified, credited the amount to your down payment, then  applied  for the voucher. They then disabled your old car’s engine and restamped its title.

 That sounds easy enough. The program offered a voucher of up to $4,500 towards the purchase of a new car when consumers traded in an in older, less fuel-efficient car for a newer, cleaner and greener machine.

Perhaps I am being too literal, but every piece I read said the word CAR trade-in not TRUCK trade in. Then again we have Texas, the truck capital of the world. The place where the words car and truck must be synonomous in a few minds. Then again, that may be blasphemy. I don’t know. I don’t own a truck. If I am wrong about the clunkers trade-in, please don’t bother to tell me.

The goal that I heard most commonly was to get the clunkers with low mileage off the road. Some people have to drive their cars into the ground until they fall apart. I’ve seen plenty of them around town. These folks did not get good gas mileage. Bad mileage equates to more chances for air pollution.

Granted, the good engineers in the state of Texas have been doing a much better job of decreasing the pollution in this state. They had to. We were all choking to death. But in large metropolitan areas like the metroplex, we still have more ozone days than I’d care to have.

Ozone is created by a combination of emissions and weather conditions. Of all the pollutants, vehicle emissions counts for 56% of the pollution.

Now I grew up with asthma. Fortunately, it is not nearly as bad as it once was, but it still can be a concern at any time. I still have an inhaler that I have to use occasionally. I happened to teach for twenty years in the same system. In both schools, a major highway was within one to two blocks. The longer I taught, the more asthma cases I was seeing not only among children but also among adults. I was happy to hear of the clunkers program for that reason. The air, according to various graphs, is getting cleaner but not clean enough to stop doing damage to our lungs.

The single most common swap which occurred more than 8,200 times, involved Ford F-150 pickup owners who took advantage to trade their old trucks for new F-150s. The fuel economy for their new trucks created an improvement of just 1 to 3 mpg over the clunkers. Thousands more old Chevy and Dodge pickups were traded for Silverados and Rams. (Bridis AP) This information was from an AP analysis of sales using federal data.

In Texas, 7 of the 10 most common transactions involved drivers trading old pick-up trucks for new ones. (Bridis AP)

In at least 145 cases, mostly involving trucks, the government reported that consumers traded old vehicles that got better than or the same mileage as the new vehicle they bought. Texas had roughly 43,000  trade-ins. (Bridis, AP) That’s over 30,100 new trucks. That’s 30,100 owners of old trucks that knew they were taking advantage of the program. That’s 30,100 people that should be ashamed but probably laughed all the way out of the dealers’ lots. Granted, out of a population over 24 million, that’s approximately 0.1% of the general population, but that is 0.1% of the population that shouldn’t have done what they did.

About 1 in 7 trade ins got less than 20 mpg. I don’t think that qualifies for fuel efficiency.

There is an investigation going on by the National Highway Traffic Safety Adminstration. The article states that those dealers who submitted invalid trade-ins will have to return the government rebate. Like that is ever going to happen with very many dealers. They are suddenly going to be honest? I hope Bridis writes another article when all the facts are in about how much of the ill spent rebate money was really recovered.

My question upon reading this article was this: why do the people of this country, every time someone attempts to do something good, feel they have to take advantage and get away with not following the requirements?

OK so I’m going to get political. Texas is a BIG red state. I’m willing to bet that a whole lot of those new truck drivers didn’t vote for the new president. But they will be the ones with their cowboy boots parked on the step of their new trucks yellin’ about how government programs never work and the PRESIDENT just wasted a lot of money! They’ll talk about how big government is taking away all their money. They won’t care if the dealers have to pay back the rebates. They were the ones willing to make the trade in the first place.

I guess in my older years I’m getting as idealistic as I was in the 60s. I see the potential for so much good in this country. It makes me sad when I realize most people would consider me a sucker for trying to do what is right. How do you feel about the clunkers deal? Namaste. Attic Annie





Filed under Casual conversation, diary, economics, general topics, life, musings

3 responses to “They used to call people cheaters…trading the clunkers

  1. freedomactionnow

    Car, truck – I’d give them a pass on that one (unless the truck is an 18-wheeler).

    What they didn’t count on was that people smart enough to do the trade-ins bought Toyotas and Hondas and Nissans and ….

    So the “clunker stimulus” really helped out the Japanese economy.

    From the article:

    “In Texas, 7 of the 10 most common transactions involved drivers trading old pick-up trucks for new ones. (Bridis AP)”

    Is anybody surprised? (Probably not that many Volvos got bought out there…..)

    “My question upon reading this article was this: why do the people of this country, every time someone attempts to do something good, feel they have to take advantage and get away with not following the requirements?”

    I question the “doing something good” on the part of the government, in this case. Actually, in most cases – but that’s another story. What happened was that thousands of perfectly good cars (and quite a few Volvos) had their engines destroyed for no good reason. What also happened was that the program was so badly mismanaged (and not by the dealers) that they ran out of money within the first month or so, and Congress had to scare up another few million $$ to finance all those Toyotas and Hondas and Nissans and…

    Here’s a site with some numbers:

    Clunker tradeins

    “The number one vehicle destroyed under the Cash for Clunkers program, the Transportation Department says, was the Ford Explorer (1998 edition). Number two, the Ford Explorer (1997). Number Three…you guessed it. The ’96 model.
    . . . .
    The Top Ten Cash for Clunkers New Cars:
    1. Ford Focus
    2. Honda Civic
    3. Toyota Corolla
    4. Toyota Prius

  2. Sue

    we have a huge lot of clunkers parked in a large lot on Farmington Road. They will probably sit there until they rust away. I hope the creek does not flood. If it does, we may have another environmental issue on our hands. progress, I think not

    • atticannie

      That’s right. Nobody told the dealers what to do with them. The government probably didn’t think that far ahead.