NPR logo We Know Who Gets The Cash. But What Happens To The Clunkers?

We Know Who Gets The Cash. But What Happens To The Clunkers?

Springfield, Vt.: There goes the clunker. Vyto Starinskas/AP hide caption

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Vyto Starinskas/AP

Springfield, Vt.: There goes the clunker.

Vyto Starinskas/AP

As I was listening to the news this morning that the Cash for Clunkers program was out of cash, I wondered for the first time what was actually happening to the clunkers. The idea behind the government program is to take old low-mileage cars off the road and provide a stimulus for the auto industry.

But if we just resell the old cars, or Mexico buys them, it's not really helping the environment. On the other hand, destroying the cars seems like a waste too — after all, these are cars that still run.

As you might imagine, Cash for Clunkers struck a compromise:

"The CARS Act requires that the trade-in vehicle be crushed or shredded so that it will not be resold for use in the United States or elsewhere as an automobile. The entity crushing or shredding the vehicles in this manner will be allowed to sell some parts of the vehicle prior to crushing or shredding it, but these parts cannot include the engine or the drive train."

That's a lot of disassembly, and it means paying work for the economy. Auto technician John Eichorn tells the local TV station in Peoria:

"It's kind of backwards because we're used to fixing them. But it's kind of fun to destroy them at the same time."