The "cash-for-clunkers" program has been the subject of more negative comments and bad puns than anything an administration has put out for a long long time. Most of the comments have focused on the program's inevitable failure to permanently raise the level of spending for autos and/or anything else. By extension, the reaction is that Obamanomics is a complete bust. Political rage absent of thought to other possibilities is not the best way to go through life, unless your goal is to get crankier as you get older. The chart below plots out auto industry inventories, sales, and the inventory/sales ratio.The cash for clunkers progam moved the auto industry out of depression and into recession at an extraordinarily rapid pace. This saved a lot of investors, public and private, a lot of money,
We can see now that the program was never really intended to be a permanent boost to sales, I think even Larry Summers and Ben Bernanke knew that. The cash for clunkers trade was meant to alleviate an extraordinary overhang of unsold cars under which an entire industry was about to collapse. Normal recession metrics for sales, inventories, and production are now in play and they will be for some time but the government accomplished what it set out to do -- saving an industry and giving it the time to do what's necessary to save itself short-term and for the long haul. It will be a while before we know whether the auto industry finally gets it right, but at least they now have the time to figure it out.