Feinstein, Collins Seek Prompt Evaluation of ‘Cash for Clunkers’ Program

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) yesterday “urged the Department of Transportation to promptly provide Congress with a detailed evaluation of the effectiveness of the ‘Cash for Clunkers’ or ‘CARS’ program,” according to a press release.

In a letter to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Senators Feinstein and Collins today renewed their request for a detailed analysis of how the program has worked to date, including the make and model of the vehicles purchased, the fuel efficiency of purchased vehicles, and the condition of vehicles traded-in.

Senators Feinstein and Collins, along with Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Thomas Carper (D-Del.), previously authored an alternative “Cash for Clunkers” proposal that would have achieved 32 to 38 percent greater oil savings and emissions reductions than the enacted “CARS” program.

The full letter:

We are writing to follow up on our July 10 letter, in which we requested data on the vehicles sold through the Consumer Assistance to Recycle and Save (CARS) Program.  We believe that Congress needs this information immediately in order to evaluate the program’s effectiveness in attaining its two goals of stimulating automobile sales and reducing oil consumption.

As you know, we have worked to make sure “Cash for Clunkers” legislation is as effective as possible at reaching its goals.  We were very surprised to see the program spend $1 billion in its first week.  Without strong data on the effectiveness of the program, it will be more difficult for Congress to evaluate and improve the current program.  Specifically, we would appreciate a report listing:

  • The gross number, percentage, and average combined fuel economy of vehicles purchased under the program in each vehicle category (passenger car, category 1 truck, category 2 truck, and category 3 truck) and for each voucher value.
  • The average age, combined fuel economy, mileage, estimated market value, and scrappage value of vehicles traded-in under the program, in the aggregate and broken down by EPA vehicle class.  Please also include the median and a distributional breakdown.
  • The average difference in combined fuel economy between the trade-in vehicle and the new vehicle, in the aggregate and broken down by EPA vehicle class.
  • The percentage of vehicles purchased through the program with below average fuel economy for their vehicle class.  Specifically:
    • Passenger cars with a combined fuel economy of 23 miles per gallon or below.
    • Category 1 trucks with a combined fuel economy of 19 miles per gallon or below.
    • Category 2 trucks with a combined fuel economy of 16 miles per gallon or below.
  • The purchase price of the new vehicle exclusive of CARS Act incentives.
  • Sales and market share, by manufacturer and vehicle class, of vehicles traded-in under the program and vehicles purchased under the program, and a list of the models most commonly turned in or purchased under the program.

The tremendous number of sales in the first week of this program demonstrates that the CARS Act has succeeded in increasing new vehicle sales, but Congress needs this data in order to determine if the fleet modernization program delivered significant fuel economy gains and oil savings.

We look forward to working with you on this issue.

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