Monday, August 24, 2009

No Cash For Our Clunkers

Laura and I briefly debated using the Cash for Clunkers program to get a new car. We didn't, partially because we can't afford a car payment at the moment, but mostly because our only government-defined Clunker is the Jeep, which Laura really likes. And you can't use the program to trade a Jeep for a newer Jeep. My 1995 Saturn with 140,000 miles on it that won't drive on the interstate: not a clunker.

But we thought about it. It's an interesting program. And we would love to own at least one vehicle that could drive more than 50 miles without needing some sort of major repair.

I thought about what this program is designed for. I'm a wee bit worried that it's the vehicular version of a sub-prime home loan. The target market consists of people driving old cars that are worth less than $4500 for a trade-in, and people whose older cars get poor mileage. This looks like they're selecting, to a large extent, for people who have never bought a new car before. To what extent are they pushing people who can't necessarily afford it into buying a new car?

We heard some fuss made about the fact that most of the cars purchased through the program are foreign cars. I'm fine with this. Detroit has spent decades cranking out inefficient, poorly engineered, poorly designed cars. They invented the concept of planned obsolescence, and now they're reaping the whirlwind. I feel utterly no pity for them. It's a shame so many good people are hurt by their impending doom, but the companies themselves are getting what they deserve.

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