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What is an "American" car? NYT helps us find out.
June 22, 2009 8:24 PM   Subscribe

Buy American - Not as easy as it may seem. The "Cash for Clunkers" program is intended to not only help the environment, but also to stimulate domestic car sales. But what is a "domestic" car?
posted by johngumbo (40 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
A domestic car is the opposite of those awful feral cars.
posted by SassHat at 8:30 PM on June 22, 2009 [23 favorites]


I don't think the bill actually distinguishes between cars on any basis except fuel efficiency. I think the hope is that a rising tide will lift all boats.

Also, feral cars.
posted by jedicus at 8:38 PM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


SassHat, which sort of feral cars?
posted by The Bridge on the River Kai Ryssdal at 8:40 PM on June 22, 2009


I used to have a feral truck. It got abysmal milage, but it got me some goddam respect on the streets, let me tell you what.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:50 PM on June 22, 2009


So, I'm wondering whether this could be used at all for a motorcycle. The fuel efficiency would be far in excess of the requirements. But I suspect they're not allowing this kind of trade-up.

Too bad. I'd love to trade in my old Jeep for a new bike and have $4.5k knocked off the price!
posted by darkstar at 9:33 PM on June 22, 2009


I'd love to trade in my old Jeep for a new bike and have $4.5k knocked off the price!

Include a mandatory organ donation and I'd be happy to subsidize this with my tax dollars!
posted by mayhap at 9:56 PM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


w00t! You're on!
posted by darkstar at 10:00 PM on June 22, 2009


Cynic that I am, I suspect a "domestic car" will turn out to mean "something built by members of the UAW." I won't be surprised if the Toyotas built by non-union workers in Tennessee don't qualify.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:50 PM on June 22, 2009


Is the cash for clunkers program really restricted to U.S. domestic vehicles only? My god your political class are a bunch of economic fools.
posted by wilful at 11:53 PM on June 22, 2009


My last car was made in the NUMMI plant, which is about 25 miles from where I live.

Although I approve of the cash for clunkers idea, a small part of me is upset that the people who buy the profligate fuel waster vehicles are getting yet another subsidy. Especially after the bonus depreciation for 6000+ lb vehicles and the light truck/ SUV CAFE standards. Why can't we do more to encourage reasonable non-polluting vehicle purchases. Not just hybrid/electric, but just good fuel economy sub-compacts.

My god your political class are a bunch of economic fools.

Explicate.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:12 AM on June 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'd love to turn in my (rusted-out, dying) Volvo 240, but I suspect this rebate only counts when you're trading up to a new car that has better mileage, no?

Because I would jump at the chance to trade up to a $4500 used Honda, Toyota or Subaru.
posted by dunkadunc at 1:25 AM on June 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


People... there's a website up for the CARS program. Here's the answers to your questions.

So, no, there's no restriction on domestics. I don't know where that idea came from.
posted by spiderskull at 1:58 AM on June 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


The US is a bit slow off the mark on this one. About a dozen countries have followed Germany onto this dubious bandwagon in recent months. How much should you trust these schemes to get you a bargain? Remember that they have been dreamt up by car salesman in collaboration with politicians.
posted by rongorongo at 2:30 AM on June 23, 2009


It's domestic sales of cars. Domestic car-sales.
posted by Houstonian at 3:12 AM on June 23, 2009


Cynic that I am, I suspect a "domestic car" will turn out to mean "something built by members of the UAW." I won't be surprised if the Toyotas built by non-union workers in Tennessee don't qualify.

It's interesting to me that this whole "unions bad" sentiment cheers on foreign brands that in their home countries are unionized.
posted by SteveInMaine at 3:34 AM on June 23, 2009


In Norway we have a deposit for new cars. That in turn finances a 1500 NOK (I guess 280 USD) payout when you return a wreck to the recyclers. Not much incentive to buy a new car, but it keeps the countryside reasonably free of old car wrecks.
posted by Harald74 at 4:22 AM on June 23, 2009


you would think that any policy to buy "US American" would be in breach of the numerous Free Trade Agreements the USA is so fond of forcing down other countries throats anyway.
posted by mary8nne at 5:31 AM on June 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


The problem is that brand-new cars are significantly more pricey to begin with.

From a poor person's (that is, my) perspective, there's no point in turning a car in if I can only get a rebate on a pricey brand-new car with the associated car payments and threat of repossession if I'm out of work.* Instead, it makes a lot more sense to forgo the rebate and scrappage entirely (even after the rebate a new car will cost at least eight grand) and just buy an eight to ten-year old car to drive into the ground.

* not everyone has luxuries like unemployment benefits
posted by dunkadunc at 6:10 AM on June 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


if the transmission blows after 40k miles it's american.
posted by krautland at 6:20 AM on June 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


if the transmission blows after 40k miles it's american.

That's because Americans are just too damn lazy to drive anything other than an automatic. Plus, a cheap stickshift has way more lifespan in it than a cheap automatic.
posted by dunkadunc at 6:51 AM on June 23, 2009


American car- A car engineered by accountants.
posted by Zambrano at 8:26 AM on June 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Funny. In the NYT link, you'll notice that the foreign cars built in the U.S. tend to be the trucks and SUVs, some sedans, but not the fuel efficient coupes. I wonder why that is.
posted by jabberjaw at 9:28 AM on June 23, 2009


Turning in old cars? Why? Because they're easier to fix yourself? Because they don't require $30,000 diagnostic computers to turn off a CEL? Because they're built with more durable steel instead of cheap plastic? These are the kinds of cars the working person needs: cheap to buy, easy and cheap to fix, cheap to insure. Yeah, let's get rid of all this inventory and force people to take out loans to buy newer, crappier pieces of shit. That's a great fucking idea.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:07 AM on June 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Turning in old cars? Why? Because they're easier to fix yourself?

That's the thing I loved about my old Saab 900 and my Volvo 240- there's just massive amounts of room in the engine compartment.

Because they don't require $30,000 diagnostic computers to turn off a CEL?

That wouldn't be a problem if there was a standardized USB connection standard for ECUs, but we've already had that argument on Metafilter.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:24 AM on June 23, 2009


PS: They're making the trucks/SUVs in the States because there's a 25% import tariff on them, so it's cheaper to make them Stateside.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:27 AM on June 23, 2009


Because they don't require $30,000 diagnostic computers to turn off a CEL?

Off by three orders of magnitude.
posted by electroboy at 11:40 AM on June 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


People... there's a website up for the CARS program. Here's the answers to your questions.

So, no, there's no restriction on domestics. I don't know where that idea came from.


So this entire post is based on a false premise. Nice.

Turning in old cars? Why? Because they're easier to fix yourself? Because they don't require $30,000 diagnostic computers to turn off a CEL? Because they're built with more durable steel instead of cheap plastic?

Because they tend to be less fuel efficient, actually. If you happen to have an old car that is fuel efficient (better than 18 mpg new), it's not eligible for this program. For instance, a 1985 Ford Taurus wagon would not be eligible for this program.

A 2007 Mazda RX-8 with 20,000 miles on it (and lots of plastic, and an OBDII computer), would be eligible, however.

This program has nothing to do with date or material of manufacture. In fact, cars older than 25 years are absolutely ineligible. This program is based on fuel efficiency.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:01 PM on June 23, 2009


if the transmission blows after 40k miles it's American.

Here's the actual data for 3-year-old cars (generally past the 40k mark). I think you'll see that the American makers hold their own in powertrain dependability. The worst are definitely a mixed lot, including American, Japanese, Korean, British (Indian?), and German labels. The best include Buick, Lincoln, and Mercury. All of these American name plates do at least as well as Honda and BMW in 3-year powertrain reliability. Ford, GMC, Cadillac, Chevy, and Chrysler match Mercedes Benz.

That's because Americans are just too damn lazy to drive anything other than an automatic. Plus, a cheap stickshift has way more lifespan in it than a cheap automatic.

I'll take the lifetime cost of maintenance on my automatic Honda Accord over your manual Volkswagon Golf any day of the week.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:14 PM on June 23, 2009


newer, crappier pieces of shit.

Oh, and I call bullshit on this, too. The average car manufactured today is just a better car than the average car manufactured 20 years ago. Better performance, safer, better suspension (holy shit has suspension tech improved over 20 years...), more reliable, and cleaner.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:17 PM on June 23, 2009


That's because Americans are just too damn lazy to drive anything other than an automatic.

And yeah, I don't hand-crank my engine or send messages by pigeon either.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:20 PM on June 23, 2009


Off by three orders of magnitude.

Well, you did forget to include the price of the service manual that tells you what "CODE Y01" actually translates to in car-parts. So two orders.

The average car manufactured today is just a better car than the average car manufactured 20 years ago.

Would you say the average house manufactured today is constructed better because insulation has improved, or the windows are tighter, or the doors lock better?

I don't think modern cars are better simply because we've been able to make advancements despite enormous cost-cutting measures in construction. The advancements would have been made regardless. But they're still disposable pieces of shit.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:16 PM on June 23, 2009


Well, you did forget to include the price of the service manual that tells you what "CODE Y01" actually translates to in car-parts. So two orders.

The computer electroboy linked to includes "CD software with over 7000 DTC definitions". Back to three orders of magnitude!

But they're still disposable pieces of shit.

Which are safer, more efficient, and longer-lasting than the disposable pieces of shit manufactured 20 years ago. What's your point?
posted by mr_roboto at 2:33 PM on June 23, 2009


I doubt laziness is why people drive automatic. Lack of having to actually think about what one is doing while driving is probably the big motivator. Standards tend to require awareness of what the engine is doing and what's coming up on you in the next few seconds. Automatics let you turn off your brain and go on auto-pilot.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:52 PM on June 23, 2009


Not to mention driving an automatic in stop and go traffic is a pain in the ass.

I think people's opinions on cars, as well as buildings and all other sorts of manufactured goods suffer from a strong bias (similar to survivorship bias) that views older goods as better quality, but neglects the fact that only the absolute best examples will survive, because poor quality goods are discarded or fail, and remove themselves from your sample.

So, for every memorable, high quality car like the Hemicuda or Toyota Hilux ('81-'95 only, please), there's a Chevy Citation or an AMC Pacer that was long ago crushed and recycled.
posted by electroboy at 3:21 PM on June 23, 2009


Lack of having to actually think about what one is doing while driving is probably the big motivator.
Automatics let you turn off your brain and go on auto-pilot.
Yup, laziness!

Not thinking about what your engine is doing / what's coming up in the next few seconds sounds downright dangerous, too.
Not like everyone driving is totally on the ball, but I think automatics are a bit like idiot lights: If you can't pay attention to your gauges (or shifting your gears) you probably shouldn't be driving.
That said, I did drive an automatic last summer and while not being in control of the gear made me decidedly uncomfortable, it was convenient driving in traffic in the city.
posted by dunkadunc at 3:28 PM on June 23, 2009


I'll take the lifetime cost of maintenance on my automatic Honda Accord over your manual Volkswagon Golf any day of the week.

I'd prefer the caloric count of a piece of plywood over a juicy steak any day of the week.

that's some tasty claim chowder, sir.
posted by krautland at 12:31 PM on June 24, 2009


I'll take the lifetime cost of maintenance on my automatic Honda Accord over your manual Volkswagon Golf any day of the week.

And I'd take a stickshift Honda Accord over both.
posted by dunkadunc at 1:14 PM on June 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'll gladly put up with a manual transmission in stop and go traffic for the extra fuel efficiency.

So, for every memorable, high quality car like the Hemicuda or Toyota Hilux ('81-'95 only, please), there's a Chevy Citation or an AMC Pacer that was long ago crushed and recycled.

Let me assure you that Chevy Citations are quite memorable, especially with their lovely 3 speed automatic transmissions.
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:32 PM on June 24, 2009


Wait, is the Golf supposed to be a juicy steak? Can I have a side of metaphor hash with my claim chowder?
posted by electroboy at 6:36 AM on June 25, 2009


Should I be happy or sad that my 1990 Toyota Corolla doesn't qualify for the rebate? .
posted by vespabelle at 12:20 PM on June 25, 2009


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