Cash-for-clunkers program unproven

carsLast week, we filed a Freedom of Information ACT (FOIA) request for information needed to assess whether the Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS), or “cash-for-clunkers” program, is working. We have our doubts. Apparently, so does the Associated Press.

According to the AP: “Just how many consumers used the federal rebates to buy these larger, not-so-green vehicles is unclear. The Obama administration has declined so far to release detailed records of purchases under the program being compiled by the Transportation Department, listing every clunker deal requesting rebates.” Though the department releases summaries of sales to corroborate the conention that cars with poor gas mileage are being traded for ones with better mileage, its failure to release detailed records means the no one can verify those claims.

And that’s exactly what our own Lena Pons has been saying.

The AP did some sleuthing and found Beny Ledesma, general sales manager at Williamson Cadillac-Hummer in Miami.

The dealership has sold three 2009 Cadillac SRXs — the six-cylinder engine model — through the clunkers program, he said, and is finishing paperwork on two more. Ledesma hopes to sell the other 14 that are at the dealership, along with some of the Hummer H3Ts on the lot that are eligible for clunker rebates.

Both vehicles get about 18 mpg, considerably less than the 25.3 mpg average that Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has attributed to new cars purchased under the clunker program.

“The Cash for Clunkers is definitely generating traffic for Cadillac and Hummer,” Ledesma said.

As we’ve said, the public should have the details of the program, details that would reveal purchases like these. Shouldn’t taxpayers be able to evaluate whether our dollars are being spent as effectively as advertised?

flickr photo by The Toad