STEVE INSKEEP, host:
The Cash for Clunkers program ended last night. This car trade-in program was designed to boost auto sales, get more energy-efficient vehicles on the roads, and also, incidentally, help struggling Detroit car companies. But the biggest beneficiaries, according to the government, were foreign makes.
NPR's Frank Langfitt reports.
FRANK LANGFITT: As of last Friday, 59 percent of the vehicles bought with clunkers cash were foreign. The top two sellers: the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic. The only Detroit vehicles in the top 10 were the Ford Focus and Escape. That's all from the Department of Transportation. Foreign firms control the majority of the U.S. market. But they did even better than usual in the clunkers program.
Karl Brauer is the editor of Edmunds.com, the car consumer Web site. He says the reason is simple. The clunker program favored gas economy, something Detroit is still working on.
Mr. KARL BRAUER (Editor, Edmunds.com): They tend to make better trucks than they do fuel-efficient cars. And that's shifting, but right now the imports still definitely have the advantage there.
LANGFITT: Brauer says if Congress had tried to tilt the program more towards Detroit…
Mr. BRAUER: Then we'd have gotten in all sorts of trade issues with the program, and you'd have people yelling that it was slanted unfairly to benefit the domestic automakers.
LANGFITT: That said, the program did help U.S. manufacturers. It cleared old inventory off dealer lots and recently encouraged General Motors to bring back more than 1,300 workers to build more cars.
Frank Langfitt, NPR News, Washington.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.