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8,700 clunkers helped rev up Oklahoma auto sales

8,700 clunkers helped rev up Oklahoma auto sales

Most traded in for same brands

Published: November 11, 2009

Oklahomans stayed fairly loyal to their old car brands when they took advantage of the Cash for Clunkers rebate program earlier this year.


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To review federal reports and download data about the Cash for Clunkers program, go to, keyword "clunkers.”

Cash for Clunkers

Top vehicles bought in Oklahoma

Ford F-150

Chevrolet Silverado

Honda Civic

Toyota Corolla

Hyundai Elantra

Trade-ins by decade

1980s: 17 percent

1990s: 72 percent

2000s: 11 percent

Average trade-in miles per gallon: 15.5

Average new vehicle miles per gallon: 24

Source: The Oklahoman analysis of federal rebate data

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State residents traded in more than 8,700 of their gas guzzlers to qualify for about $36.8 million in rebates under the Consumer Assistance to Recycle and Save Act. The program ended in August after granting $2.8 billion in rebates across the country.

The Cash for Clunkers program was intended to spur auto sales and take older, less-efficient vehicles off the streets. But it came at a time when dealer inventories were low and gasoline prices had stabilized from their highs in 2008, said Paul Taylor, chief economist at the National Automobile Dealers Association. Those factors likely limited the program’s effectiveness.

Taylor said typical new-car buyers spend an average of $28,000, so the program did little to help lower-income buyers. However, it likely provided a short-term boost to retail sales and aided industrial production in the months that followed as automakers replenished their inventories, he said.

"It probably pulled a lot of people off the fence who are not traditional new-car buyers,” Taylor said.

Oklahoma buyers chose Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota vehicles in roughly half the new purchases, according to an analysis of federal rebate data. Vehicles from the Big Three — Ford Motor Co., General Motors and Chrysler — were among the most traded-in.

Mike Fowler, chief executive officer of Fowler Auto Group, made an early commitment to the program and ended up being the state’s top dealer in Cash for Clunkers rebates. He said initial hurdles with the program’s administration, such as online rebate processing and dealer payments, were straightened out quickly.

For the most part, Oklahoma buyers who traded in medium and large trucks bought newer models of trucks, according to the rebate analysis. People who traded in small trucks mostly chose new cars, while those who traded in cars stuck with cars.

Trucks and vans made up 86 percent of the trade-ins in Oklahoma. New purchases were split between cars, 55 percent, and trucks, 45 percent.

Mirroring national rebate data, the most common switch in Oklahoma was an old Ford F-150 pickup for a new one. That was followed by people trading in old Chevy or GMC pickups for new Chevrolet Silverado trucks.

In Oklahoma, traded-in vehicles had an average fuel efficiency of 15.5 miles per gallon. New vehicles bought under the rebate program averaged 24 miles per gallon, according to the analysis.

"About 80 percent of the cars we saw were without a doubt, clunkers,” Fowler said. "They needed to go away. The rest had some life in them, but probably weren’t worth enough to trade in.”

Fowler said showroom traffic dropped off in September and October after the Cash for Clunkers program expired.

It has since picked up in November, he said.

Taylor, the economist, said there’s talk in Washington of restarting the program. The likelihood of another round grew last week after Congress approved an extension of another stimulus program, the homebuyers’ tax credit, that was set to expire later this month, he said.

Fowler, whose company has dealerships in Oklahoma and Colorado, said he doesn’t favor another round of Cash for Clunkers spending. "The car business is beginning to get on the right path,” Fowler said. "I don’t think we need any more government help.”

The Oklahoman’s Watchdog Team: Looking out for you. Go to

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