ACT clutch

This article was written by Mark Vaughn on

It’s been scientifically proved that 67 percent of all facts are made up. And 72 percent of readers believe that.

I forget where that’s from, but it’ll do nicely to help make sense of the cash-for-clunkers program currently causing more head-scratching than eczema, seborrhea and psoriasis combined.

First of all, why didn’t they have this program back when I actually drove clunkers? What I wouldn’t have given to get $4,500 toward a brand-new car just by wheezing my smoking-old behemoth into the dealer of my choice. Just the thought of knowing my new car would start every time I turned the key, not to mention stop every time I stepped on the brakes, would have made all the difference in the world to me and my prospects of surviving high school and maybe even college.

But no, I continued to drive the Death Pinto, numerous homicidal Volkswagens and the occasional MG because that was all I had! The motorcycles wouldn’t have qualified.

All you people today have it so easy.

Is this clunker program right? Who knows! There are so many ways to look at it. If it’s nothing more than an economic-stimulus package, then let’s just call it that. Longtime readers of the Vaughn Doctrines will tell you that I was crying out, back in the early days of the current industry collapse, to simply give vouchers to car buyers, rather than billions to carmakers, to save the industry. Seventy-two percent of readers believe that. But did anyone in the White House call me? No. Even after I offered my services as Car Czar, I was ignored.

Then I heard from an engineer friend who forwarded the following argument: It’s all a bunch of hooey.

He cited a news report that stated:

“The Obama administration appealed to the Senate Monday to bail out the popular but reeling ‘cash for clunkers’ rebate program, arguing that it already has improved vehicle fuel efficiency by over 60 percent . . .

“One official said the average fuel economy of new vehicles purchased through the program was 25.4 miles per gallon and the average fuel efficiency of the trade-ins was 15.8 mpg, representing a 9.6 mpg fuel economy increase. . . .

“The data [is] based on 80,500 vehicle transactions logged into the government’s operating system through Saturday afternoon.”

So, my friend continued:

“If the current mix of cars + trucks already returns 20 mpg if you include the older cars, we can calculate how much the national fleet average goes up as a result of shifting 80,500 cars from the trade-ins’ claimed 15.8 mpg to 25.4 mpg.

“Let’s use 140 million cars and trucks (less low-mileage clunkers traded in) getting 20 mpg. Now replace 80,500 of those that had been getting 15.8 with the same number getting 25.4 mpg.

{[(140 million – 80,500) x 20 mpg] + (80,500 x 25.4 mpg)}


(140 million – 80,500) x 20 mpg)] + [80,500 x 15.8 mpg]

= 1.00028, or a 0.028 percent improvement in the national fleet fuel economy. Or, 0.0056 mile per gallon, fleet-wide. That’s about seven-tenths of a fluid ounce per gallon, or just under one and a half tablespoons per gallon. You would save more gasoline by press-ganging the Boy Scouts to go around with tire-pressure gauges to make sure everybody kept their tires inflated to 40 psi.”

So yes, it’s BS!

But only if you look at it as an environmental benefit. Economic-stimulus benefit, well, that’s a different thing altogether.

The thing that gets me upset is to see new-car dealers pouring liquid cement into perfectly good engines and running them till they seize. Have you ever rebuilt an engine? I’m sure you have. Many of you have probably built engines on assembly lines. All those parts, all that casting and machining and assembling, simply seized up and hauled off to be, what, melted down and made into some ugly new car? Is it environmentally sound to use all the energy to make and then, before it’s useful life is up, recycle a car?

If you look on YouTube, you can find perfectly good Mustangs, Volvos and BMWs being happily put to death so someone can buy a new car. What’s wrong with perfectly serviceable old cars? It’s like Logan’s Run, only it’s with cars!

We have to come up with some more reasonable solution than clunker laws before the government starts feeding us this great new product called Solyent Green that I’ve heard about.

If you want to save the car industry and stimulate the economy, fine. Send vouchers for new cars to new-car buyers and let them buy something. Everybody will be happy. But why waste perfectly serviceable old cars in the process? That part doesn’t make sense. If the so-called clunkers are on their last legs, they will get recycled anyway, after a specified period during which they are parked on the front lawn on cinder blocks, a period longer in some states than in others. But have some respect for the engineering and labor that went into making those things, and for the energy that will be used up to crush them, ship them overseas and melt them down again.

There, that was easy.

Next week: I solve the crisis in the Middle East.

Project Mu