Cash for guzzlers

South Dakota State Roundup

Ronald A. Wirtz | Editor, fedgazette | @RonWirtz

Published January 1, 2010  | January 2010 issue

Maybe South Dakota never got the memo.

The federal “cash for clunkers” program offered up to $4,500 to drivers to upgrade their vehicles to more fuel-efficient models. But according to an investigation by the Argus Leader, state residents there used the program as an opportunity to simply trade in their vehicle for a discounted new one, with little net gain in fuel efficiency.

The program’s two best sellers in the state were the Ford F-150 and Chevy Silverado, both of which get about 16 miles to the gallon. For 90 percent of these purchases, the average trade-in improved net gas mileage by about three miles per gallon, the newspaper found. Average gas mileage for all new vehicles sold nationwide was 24.9, compared with 23.5 in South Dakota—a 6 percent difference—mostly the result of higher truck sales.

In all, the cash for clunkers program in South Dakota snagged $10.3 million in federal incentives for about 2,500 trade-ins, according to federal databases, or about $4,200 per vehicle.