WASHINGTON – The most common deals under the government's $3 billion Cash for Clunkers program… replaced old Ford or Chevrolet pickups with new ones that got only marginally better gas mileage.
The single most common swap (8,200 times) involved Ford 150 pickup owners who traded old trucks for new Ford 150s. They were 17 times more likely to buy a new F150 than, say, a Toyota Prius. The fuel economy for the new trucks were an improvement of just 1 mpg to 3 mpg over the clunkers.
Owners of thousands more large old Chevrolet and Dodge pickups bought new Silverado and Ram trucks, also with only barely improved mileage. Those deals helped the Ford 150 and Chevy Silverado — along with Ford's Escape midsize SUV — climb into the Top 10 most-popular vehicles purchased with the government rebates – totaling at least $911 million.
In scores of deals, the government reported spending a total of $562,500 in rebates for new cars and trucks that got worse or the same mileage as the trade-ins — in apparent violation of the program's requirements. The government said in some cases they were probably entered incorrectly by dealers or based on outdated fuel economy figures.
The new data, obtained by the AP under the Freedom of Information Act, include details of 677,081 clunker trade-ins. More than 95,000 of the new vehicles purchased under the program — or about one in seven — got less than 20 mpg, according to the data.