Politics & Government

Cash for clunkers: Is it a good deal or is it a lemon?

FT. WORTH — To hear car dealers and some in Congress tell it, the U.S. government's "cash for clunkers" program is the best thing to hit the auto business since air conditioning and zero-percent loans.

Congress appropriated an additional $2 billion this week to keep the rebate program from running out of money. But at least one industry analyst argues that the government is getting less bang for its stimulus buck than it appears by stealing sales from future months. And, he says, the program will result in higher car prices for everyone else.

There’s no doubt that buyers who turn in tired, old clunkers and get rebates of up to $4,500 for new, more fuel-efficient vehicles are getting good deals.

But a lot of those people would have bought a new vehicle soon anyway, says Jeremy Anwyl, the chief executive of the influential Edmunds.com auto-buying advice Web site.

"I feel a little bit like a party pooper," Anwyl said of his outlook in an interview last week.

Even dealers, however, acknowledge that some buyers sped up their timetable to take advantage of the generous government rebate. What remains to be seen is how long the clunkers-powered sales surge lasts and how it affects car sales later this year.

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