The New York Times

‘Cash for Clunkers,’ By the Numbers
The New York Times

The “cash for clunkers” program [prime à la casse] introduced last week appears to have been a success, at least based on the tens of thousands of consumers who streamed into their local car dealers to swap their beaters for new, more fuel-efficient replacements.

But there is more to the numbers than the headlines. According to a survey of car dealerships and 2,200 consumers by CNW Research, the average fuel economy of vehicles traded in last week was 16.3 miles per than the 18 m.p.g. needed to qualify for a government rebate of $3,500.

The relatively small differential suggests that consumers have not been turning in the oldest, dirtiest and least fuel-efficient cars, but instead have been getting rid of their second and third cars, according to Art Spinella, who ran the survey. “These are third cars used for kids in school,” Mr. Spinella said.

Lawmakers hoped the “cash for clunkers” program, formally known as the Car Allowance Rebate System, would reduce America’s dependence on imported oil. But the early results of the program suggest that may not happen. The vehicles turned in were driven about 6,000 miles a year, he said. If the new vehicles are driven about 12,000 miles a year, the rough annual average, then consumers will actually use more fuel, not less.