Ill come clean. I wasnt impressed with the cash-for-clunkers incentive program.
It could have been simpler and easier to understand. It should have made every car and truck thats at least 12 years old eligible, without all the mumbo jumbo about fuel economy. That would have taken a lot more unsafe, dirty, fuel-inefficient clunkers off the road with a lot less hassle for dealers, consumers and bureaucrats.
But I have to admit that the coulda/shoulda/woulda stuff doesnt diminish how successful the program has been in getting Americans to buy new cars.
It also helped get a lot of potentially lethal cars and trucks off the road, according to a friend and former colleague.
Phil Frame was an Automotive News reporter in Detroit and Washington before slipping over to the Dark Side. He has been director of public relations for Macomb County, Mich., for the past five years.
But in 1997 and 1998, Frame worked for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. He tells me that the 1990s-era clunkers covered by the program all have full-powered airbags, which collectively are believed to have killed 300 Americans.
Frame ought to know. He served on the agencys airbag rule-making teams that issued new rules for airbag on-off switches, depowered bags, advanced bags and a new family of crash test dummies to measure airbag safety. All vehicles sold today have safer airbags and belts, he reminds me.
When I showed Frame the list of the 10 most traded-in clunkers through Tuesday -- all of which are pickups, SUVs or minivans -- he recognized another big plus: Most trucks from that era were involved in single-vehicle rollover investigations.
Todays trucks are safer, he says.
I guess that means cash for clunkers did what needed to be done.
OK, Im impressed.