The federal Cash for Clunkers program is getting a lot of trucks and sport-utility vehicles off the road, but it hasn't made best-sellers out of the Prius or other gas-efficient hybrids.
The purpose behind the program was twofold: boost anemic consumer spending while lowering gasoline consumption. There's no doubt that Cash for Clunkers accomplished the former, though interest now appears to be tapering off. It's less clear what the trade-in program has accomplished on the environmental front.
Much to the chagrin of public-interest groups, a fair number of U.S. consumers are turning right around and buying new light trucks with their credits from the Car Allowance Rebate System, or CARS.
The Toyota Prius and Honda Insight, two of the most popular and fuel-efficient hybrids, are noticeably absent from the top-10 list of new cars purchased to replace turned-in clunkers.
"It appears that despite some of these glowing (federal) reports we've seen on the environmental benefits of the program, a lot of light trucks and SUVs are being purchased through the program," said Lena Pons, a policy analyst Public Citizen, the Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group.