Big Three take 47 percent of ‘Cash for Clunkers’ sales; Ford Focus top-seller

Big Three take 47 percent of ‘Cash for Clunkers’ sales; Ford Focus top-seller

David Shepardson / Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Detroit’s automakers accounted for 47 percent of the first 80,000 “Cash for Clunkers” sales, the Obama administration said today, and the Ford Focus is the top-selling vehicle in the program.

Through Saturday afternoon, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has processed 80,500 transactions, the White House said.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said buyers should be able to take advantage of the program until Friday, but he warned it would likely have to shut down before next weekend if the Senate doesn’t agree to add $2 billion to the original $1 billion pot.

On Friday, the House approved the $2 billion increase. The Senate is expected to vote Wednesday or Thursday; the White House is pressing it to act.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told MSNBC that the program has been a “lifeline to the economy.”

NHTSA said about 250,000 vehicles will be able to take part in the $1 billion program.

General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group LLC sales account for 47 percent in the program, which is above their overall share in the auto market of about 45 percent of the three Detroit companies.

The Ford Focus is the top-selling vehicle in the program. Four of the top 10-selling vehicles are manufactured by Detroit’s Big Three. Of non-Big Three purchases, the Transportation Department’s preliminary analysis suggests that more than half of these new vehicles were manufactured in the United States.

Gibbs said the program has been a “big benefit to domestic automakers.”

The transactions are generating a 61 percent increase in vehicle fuel economy, Gibbs said. The average fuel economy of new vehicles purchased under the CARS program is 25.4 miles per gallon, and the average fuel economy of trade-ins is 15.8 mpg, for an average increase in fuel economy of 9.6 mpg.

This is well above the law’s minimum requirements of a 2 mpg improvement for trucks and a 4 mpg improvement for cars. Gibbs said it will save an average consumer $700 to $1,000 in gas.

Gibbs said the $2 billion should allow the program to continue through September.

Supporters and the White House will use the numbers and the job-creating impact of the “Cash for Clunkers” program to ease environmental concerns of many Senate Democrats who thought the program’s efficiency requirements should be tightened.

The improvement in fuel efficiency will save a typical consumer between $700 and $1,000 per year in reduced gas costs, Gibbs said. In addition to the money saved from fewer gas purchases, consumers participating in the program will have safer cars, fewer repair costs and dramatic reductions in air pollution, officials said.

Thus far, 83 percent of trade-ins under the program are trucks, and 60 percent of new vehicle purchases are cars.

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