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In 'clunkers' program, Toyota Corolla overtakes Ford Focus

Foreign automakers produce five of the six top vehicles bought under the Obama program, though several, including the Toyota Camry, are built in the U.S. or Canada, Transportation Department says.

August 06, 2009|Jim Puzzanghera

The "cash for clunkers" program is set to get its tank refilled with another $2 billion today after Senate Democrats and Republicans reached an agreement allowing a vote on extra money to keep the immensely popular rebate program going through Labor Day.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and other supporters of the program said there was enough support to approve the funding, which the House passed last week.

The sticking point had been agreeing on the number of potential amendments so that an exact date could be set for the vote. The amendments -- six from Republicans and one from a Democrat -- would place limits on the program or on other bailout initiatives.

All are expected to fail, in part because any changes to the legislation would require the House to act before the money could flow. The House is already on its August recess, so that would mean cash for clunkers, once it runs out of funding, would be suspended until lawmakers returned next month.

President Obama has urged the Senate to keep the program running and lobbied Democrats personally at a White House lunch Tuesday. Reid said after the meeting that the Senate would approve the $2 billion in funding before Friday, when its own summer break begins.

Also on Wednesday, the Department of Transportation released new data showing that the Toyota Corolla has overtaken the Ford Focus as the top new vehicle purchased through the program.

That means foreign automakers produce five of the six top sellers, although several of those, including the Toyota Camry, are built in the United States or Canada.

The data could fuel more opposition, though the additional funding is expected to be easily approved. As of Wednesday, the program had racked up 184,304 trade-ins and consumed $775.2 million of its $1-billion budget, according to the Transportation Department.

Some Republicans have criticized the program, saying it subsidizes sales for foreign manufacturers. To counter that, the Obama administration had touted that cash-for-clunkers buyers were choosing the Ford Focus more than any other vehicle.

Administration officials also had noted that vehicles produced by Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group accounted for 47% of the vehicles purchased under the program, slightly above their U.S. market share.

In the data released Wednesday, that figure dropped to 45%, which equals their market share.

Still, GM cars accounted for the highest percentage of cash-for-clunker sales, with 18.7%, followed by Toyota Motor Corp., Ford, Honda Motor Co. and Chrysler.

And "well over half" of the vehicles produced by non-Big Three automakers were assembled in the United States, according to the Department of Transportation.

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jim.puzzanghera@ latimes.com

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Trading vehicles

TOP CLUNKERS

1. Ford Explorer 4WD

2. Ford F150 Pickup 2WD

3. Jeep Grand Cherokee 4WD

4. Jeep Cherokee 4WD

5. Dodge Caravan/Grand

Caravan 2WD

6. Ford Explorer 2WD

7. Chevrolet Blazer 4WD

8. Ford F150 Pickup 4WD

9. Chevrolet C1500 Pickup

2WD

10. Ford Windstar

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TOP NEW CARS

1. Toyota Corolla

2. Ford Focus

3. Honda Civic

4. Toyota Prius

5. Toyota Camry

6. Hyundai Elantra

7. Ford Escape

8. Dodge Caliber

9. Honda Fit

10. Chevrolet Cobalt

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TOP MANUFACTURERS

General Motors: 18.7%

Toyota: 17.9%

Ford: 16.0%

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Source: U.S. Department

of Transportation

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