Edmunds.com Responds to White House CriticismBy Michelle Krebs October 29, 2009
Today the Department of Transportation and White House chose to respond to an analysis Edmunds.com released Wednesday that looked at auto sales this year and what sales volumes would have been had the popular Cash for Clunkers program never existed.
At issue is one point of the analysis showing the taxpayer cost for every incremental vehicle sold was $24,000. To be clear, Edmunds.com is not disputing the government's statements regarding total voucher applications, vehicles sold or voucher values. The key question is how many of these sales would have occurred anyway.
Apparently, the $24,000 figure caught many by surprise. It shouldn't have. The truth is that consumer incentive programs are always hugely expensive when calculated by incremental sales - always in the tens of thousands of dollars. Cash for Clunkers was no exception.
The White House claims that our analysis was based on car sales on Mars and that on Earth, the marketplace is connected. We agree the marketplace is connected. In fact, that is exactly the basis of our analysis.
The White House also claimed we missed the possibility that Cash for Clunkers generated excitement and consumers bought vehicles even if they didn't qualify for the program -- a claim that has been widely supported by anecdote but by little analysis. It does, after all, seem a bit odd that masses of consumers would elect to buy a vehicle because of a program for which they don't qualify -- doubly so when you add in the fact that prices shot up during Cash for Clunkers, creating a disincentive to buy.
Finally, the White House claims that the increase in fourth-quarter production reported by the car manufacturers can be attributed to Cash for Clunkers. But here is a better reason: the economy is recovering accompanied by improved car sales. No manufacturer increases production -- a decision with long-term consequences -- based on the 30-day sales blip triggered by an event like Cash for Clunkers.
With all respect to the White House, Edmunds.com thinks that instead of shooting the messenger, government officials should take heart from the core message of the analysis: the fundamentals of the auto marketplace are improving faster than the current sales numbers suggest.
Isn't this a piece of good news we can all cheer? -- Jeremy Anwyl, Edmunds.com CEO