Earlier this year, SEMA launched the largest grassroots effort in its 46-year history to prevent inclusion of a national “Cash for Clunkers” program within the economic stimulus bill. From late December through mid-February, SEMA members and SEMA Action Network (SAN)* enthusiasts made phone calls and sent thousands of emails and faxes to members of Congress urging lawmakers to oppose a vehicle scrappage program. The campaign was successful. The legislation passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate and signed into law by President Obama was “clunker-free.”
Cash for Clunkers programs accelerate the normal retirement of vehicles through the purchase of older cars which are then typically crushed into blocks of scrap metal. Two proposals were put forth and then withdrawn during the Congressional debate. The first was a $8 billion program targeting SUVs and pickup trucks of any year that make less than 18 mpg such as Chevy Silverados, Dodge Rams, Ford F-Series and Jeep Wranglers. The second would have provided $16 billion worth of cash vouchers to individuals making less than $50,000 a year ($75,000 for families) who allowed their turned-in cars to be destroyed.
“SEMA continues to believe that a Cash for Clunkers program would, for no proven gain, hurt thousands of independent repair shops, auto restorers, customizers and their customers across the country that depend on the used car market,” said SEMA Vice President of Government Affairs Steve McDonald. “Instead, we are working with the House and Senate and all stakeholders on sound economic solutions to the current recession that will help drive product sales for the entire auto industry, including the vast automotive aftermarket and its specialty equipment segment.”
The economic stimulus law includes a SEMA-supported amendment which allows taxpayers to claim a federal tax deduction on state sales/excise taxes when buying a new car in 2009. The new law also contains several business tax credits to help spur capital investments and new hires.
Lawmakers recognize that SEMA members and SAN enthusiasts were the first to step forward last year in vocal opposition to a federal Cash for Clunkers program. The message resonated. SEMA staff also knocked on hundreds of doors across Capitol Hill outlining how the program would cut into the business of thousands of SEMA members companies and make it more difficult and expensive for enthusiasts to pursue their love of cars.
Looking to the future, Cash for Clunkers still has loyal advocates in Washington, DC. Another clunkers proposal may reemerge later this year. SEMA will remain vigilant in educating legislators on the need to oppose programs that do not spur car sales, reduce emissions or raise fuel economy. Meanwhile, SEMA takes this opportunity to thank its member companies and SAN enthusiasts for a job well done. Your voice helps protect our industry and hobby.