(Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press/File
WASHINGTON - The most common deals under the government’s $3 billion Cash for Clunkers program, aimed at putting more fuel-efficient cars on the road, replaced old Ford or Chevrolet pickups with new ones that got only marginally better gas mileage, according to an analysis of new federal data by the Associated Press.
The single most common swap, which occurred more than 8,200 times, involved Ford F-150 pickup owners who took advantage of a government rebate to trade their old trucks for new Ford F-150s. They were 17 times more likely to buy a new F-150 than, say, a Toyota Prius. The fuel economy for the new trucks ranged from 15 to 17 miles per gallon, based on engine size and other factors, an improvement of just 1 to 3 miles per gallon over the clunkers.
Owners of thousands more large old Chevrolet and Dodge pickups bought new Silverado and Ram trucks, also with only barely improved mileage in the middle teens, according to AP’s analysis of sales of $15.2 billion worth of vehicles at nearly 19,000 car dealerships in every state. Those deals helped the Ford F-150 and Chevy Silverado climb into the Top 10 most popular vehicles purchased with the government rebates. The most common truck-for-truck and truck-for-SUV deals totaled at least $911 million.
In scores of deals, the government reported spending a total of $562,500 in rebates for new cars and trucks that got the same mileage as the trade-ins, or even worse mileage - in apparent violation of the program’s requirements. The government said it is investigating those reports, adding that in some cases the figures were probably entered incorrectly by dealers.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is still reviewing the reports, and any dealers that submitted invalid trade-ins will be directed to return the government rebate, spokesman Eric Bolton said.