'Cash for Clunkers' had mixed results in California's capital

In the Sacramento region, "cash for clunkers" translated into "trade that old domestic car for a foreign brand."

The federal program aimed at improving air quality while benefiting U.S. automakers largely missed at least one of its marks locally.

Eight of the 10 most popular local trade-ins during Cash for Clunkers were built by U.S. automakers, a Bee review of new federal data shows. All of the 10 most popular vehicles purchased locally with vouchers from the program were built by Japanese or Korean outfits.

Call it a sign of the times: A decade ago, gas-guzzling domestic SUVs were all the rage. Today, gas mileage is king, and foreign brands are widely seen as gas sippers.

The roughly 4,500 vehicles traded in locally averaged 16 miles per gallon, while the vehicles purchased averaged 26 mpg, according to the review, which included all trade-ins and purchases during the four-week Cash for Clunkers program in Sacramento, Yolo, Placer and El Dorado counties.

Across the region, dealers sold about two Hondas for every Ford sold during the program; three Nissans for every Dodge and five Toyotas for every Chevy.

"Toyota hit a home run on it," said David A. Rodgers, senior vice president and general manager of the Sullivan Automotive Group, which sells Toyotas and Chevys at different locations.

Cash for Clunkers offered vouchers up to $4,500 to car buyers who traded in vehicles with low gas mileage for new, fuel-efficient cars.

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