"Sales for virtually every Toyota model were up in July," said Bob Carter, general manager of the automaker's U.S. sales division.
But less than a week after the program went into full swing, warnings emerged that it was so successful that funds could soon be exhausted. That provoked panic in the industry, which has suffered its worst sales decline in decades.
Emily Kolinski Morris, lead economist at Ford, said the vouchers would save participants an average of 300 gallons of gas a year. "It seems to be living up to its promise as a win-win-win for consumers, the environment and the economy," she said.
Yet even some in the industry said the effect of clunker vouchers could fade. GM's head of sales, Mark LaNeve, thinks it could take four months to spend an additional $2 billion on vouchers. "The number of people who have vehicles that qualify and the financial wherewithal is limited," he said.
Lena Pons, policy analyst at consumer group Public Citizen, opposes more funding, arguing that the program deserves more study to ensure that it's "not just another multibillion-dollar handout."