U.S. deals on clunkers aid imports

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Detroit automakers were out-clunked by foreign makes, which improved their market share through the U.S. government’s cash-for-clunkers program, according to final results released this week.

According to federal officials, dealers submitted 690,114 deals under the program, claiming $2.877 billion — just under the $3 billion set aside by Congress for the plan. While the plan successfully boosted U.S. auto sales from their deepest decline in four decades, its hangover could depress sales for the remainder of the year.

General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group LLC accounted for 38.6 percent of sales under the program, compared with their market share of 45.3 percent through July of this year.

Meanwhile, Asian automakers outperformed, with Toyota Motor Co. and Hyundai making the largest market share gains. Chrysler’s share of 6.6 percent left it trailing Nissan Motor Co. and Hyundai.

While the original cash-for-clunkers proposal would have limited the $3,500 or $4,500 vouchers to U.S.-made vehicles, the provision was dropped to get the plan through Congress. The vouchers were designed to favor trading older trucks for newer cars — resulting in a 9.2 mpg increase on average between clunkers and new models.

The top 10 vehicles purchased under the program were, in order, the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, Toyota Camry, Ford Focus FWD, Hyundai Elantra, Nissan Versa, Toyota Prius, Honda Accord, Honda Fit and Ford Escape FWD.

The Obama administration cheered the program, saying it created or saved 21,000 jobs this year and boosted the U.S. economy for the remainder of the year. The program closed to customers Monday night and to dealers Tuesday evening.

(c) 2009, Detroit Free Press. Source: McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.