The Cash for Clunkers news coming out over the last few days has felt like a bit of a rollercoaster. Yesterday reports hailed the program for raising new car average gas mileage significantly. Today, the news is that overall new car sales have declined to pre-Clunkers levels, but that’s not the whole story. The real story is that among the individual manufacturers, there are some significant winners and losers. GM and Chrysler were hit the hardest, suffering a 45% and 42% decline from the same time last year, which is significantly off their sales numbers during the Clunkers program.
But on the other hand, Hyundai came out strong, still pulling in increased new car sales despite the program being over – 27% more than this same time in 2007. Honda, Toyota, and Nissan were all down too, but much less than their domestic competition. So was Clunkers a flop? It’s debatable, but my opinion is that the program wasn’t really intended to keep new car sales increasing throughout the year … it seemed more like the point was to move a segment of the total US fleet into more efficient, new cars, to give the economy a temporary boost. Small, efficient cars benefited the most and maybe that’ll change long-term buying patterns. I’m not going to go out on a limb and say that C4C was a success, but I don’t think this news necessarily proves the program was a failure. (But that’s my opinion!)