When people know you are a gearhead it makes for easy conversation. Often I am asked where to get the deals, what the best gas to use is, or what I think of the latest auto news. The CARS program (or Cash for Clunkers to most) has definitely become the topic of choice on casual conversation recently.
I'm going to refrain from discussing the logistics of the program. I'm also not going to talk about any dealer or make in particular, as my opinion in know way factors these elements. Instead I want to share what I think is wrong with the program. This will be coming from my influential upbringing in the Bay Area (San Francisco). A place where recycling and the environment have been "in" for decades.
The one thing that has been bothering me about this program is this; what is happening to the "clunkers" once they are collected? Many friends in the business have been telling me that the vehicles coming in aren't really junk. Sure, they get sub-standard gas mileage, but consider how many lower income families could use these vehicles. I would say more over half the country can't even afford a new car.
We have all seen stories and videos covering the back-side of this program. They have images of decent cars getting crushed at a local junkyard. I have to ask why? Fine, take them off the road and get people to step up, but why not really recycle them? I don't mean crush 'em and send them to the metal smelting factory people. Take these cars and part them out like salvage yards have done for the past century. One nineties Ford Taurus could keep a dozen others alive. Many parts on these "junk" cars are are perfect for someone wanting to replace a broken mirror or bumper.
I believe in what some call "the triangle"; Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Notice one of these words is "reuse", meaning not everything has to be destroyed and rebuilt from scratch. It takes massive amounts of energy and natural resources to recycle the simplest tin can. This is why recycled materials typically cost more than "virgin" material.
Is the CARS, or "Cash for Clunkers" program a good idea? Yes. It's "stimulating" the economy where it should have in the first place. Stop giving billions to big business' and start passing it down to the people. Because I trust my neighbor more than I trust a blue-hair in a suit at some large corporate bank. But think things through when developing such a plan. The economy and MPG aren't only factors in such a program.