Somebody is going to have to explain this one to me.
On Friday, I finally started thinking that maybe I should take advantage of this Cash for Clunkers thing. Usually I stand on principle with this type of thing, and let my pride get in the way of me getting what other people will jump at. I’ve thought and said that I think this clunker program is fiscal malfeasance at its finest. But I’ve paid enough taxes over my working life. Isn’t it about time I get something back for a change? What the hell, people are getting $3500 and $4500 left and right, and I’ve paid for it whether I get any or not. Almost seems like it’s my patriotic duty, to hear the media tell it. And, I figured it could do my business some good. Debbie has been regularly complaining about our company truck, which she affectionately calls “the Old Jalopy”. Admittedly, the girl has seen better days (the Old Jalopy, not Debbie).
Being a guy that has always loved cars, I’m always thinking about which one might come next, so I knew exactly the call to make. I have been eyeing up the Dodge Sprinter diesel for over a year now, and figured that would be the next business truck. A nice Sprinter rings in at about $48,000 – while it’s not cheap, I consider it to be a prudent capital investment in my business, as the asset will have a useful life exceeding 10 years, probably closer to 15 years. So on a per year basis, it’s actually not bad. So I called my friendly, neighborhood Dodge dealer. I figured this should be an easy conversation – the fuel economy of the Sprinter is 20.2 MPG. As I called on my way home in the evening, I was thinking about having Debbie meet me at the dealership that evening to pick color and equipment, then maybe get some dinner. I was certain I was going to be driving it home that night.
So imagine my surprise when the sales guy tells me, “sorry sir, this trade doesn’t qualify”. “Are you telling me my Old Jalopy isn’t a clunker?”, I ask. “Not on this trade it’s not”, he replied.
But there was good news, I was told! I could trade my truck for another truck. Not one that would do me any good for my business, mind you. But I could get a brand, spankin’ new Chevy Colorado Crew Cab 4WD. Nice truck, to be sure. And check out the deal – with my clunker credit, rebates, etc., I could leave the dealership for about $18,000, I was told.
Yeah. Too bad that truck does me NO GOOD WHATSOEVER. It will not haul inventory and equipment in the quantities we need. It will not have nearly the longevity of the Sprinter. And it’s not as economical, especially if it were to be used as a work truck. Anyone who actually USES a truck for work will tell you that light trucks don’t stand up to the demands of commercial use, and their mileage plummets when you put 2000 lbs in the back of them.
As I shook my head in amazement, it occurred to me that maybe, somehow, I had misunderstood the stated goal of the Clunker, er, CARS, program. So I read the Rule, 49 CFR Parts 512 and 599, NHTSA Docket 2009-120. Right from the rule, here’s what they say about the program: “The program helps consumers pay for a new, more fuel efficient car or truck from a participating dealer when they trade in a less fuel efficient car or truck.” And the threshold for “more efficient” has been set at 5 MPG. That all seems pretty straightforward to me.
So let’s see if I have this straight:
- I have a 12 year old SUV that gets 12 MPG
- I want to buy a $48,000 truck that gets 20.2 MPG. I would buy it today with the $4500 incentive.
- The truck I want doesn’t qualify. And no truck I can use qualifies, actually (I skipped that part of the story. The short version is that when I had resigned myself to the fact the Sprinter wasn’t going to qualify, I started asking about 1/2 ton cargo vans with 6 cylinder engines. No “Category 2” truck is eligible, I found out.)
- They do want to sell me a truck however. I can walk away with one that gets 17 MPG (3.2 MPG less than the truck I want), and I can’t use, for $18,000. The dealer will get $4500 for the trade from the government.
Is it just me, or is this insane?
I am now firmly convinced that this is just another welfare program. The reason I don’t qualify is that I will make the required investments anyway. There is no need to help small business owners. When we need a new truck, we’ll buy one. But it would have been nice to be able to have my tax dollars work for me.
So this is CHANGE, huh? Looks like the same old stupidity to me. And this from the same people who want to fix health care? If they can’t do something simple well, can you imagine what a clusterf*ck something complicated will be? I am certain we will all be wishing for the “good old days” of Blue Cross Blue Shield.