Dear Editor,

Understandably the "Cash for Clunkers" program is wildly popular among new car dealers, car makers and those consumers who have the ability to buy a new vehicle. However, the majority of Americans cannot afford a new car payment today, but they probably can afford to trade up to a newer used vehicle or make their current vehicle more fuel-efficient.

Routine vehicle maintenance for an entire year costs a consumer less than a single monthly new car payment and would be significantly more successful in reducing gasoline use and pollution than "Cash for Clunkers." Vehicle maintenance would save consumers $30 billion in gasoline a year vs. spending $3 billion in taxpayer dollars to buy new cars.

While "Cash for Clunkers" is estimated to save 72 million gallons of gasoline each year, simple vehicle maintenance would save more than 12 billion gallons of gasoline a year an amount equivalent to all of the gasoline used in Illinois, Michigan and Connecticut in one year. Additionally, vehicle maintenance does not require destroying perfectly good used vehicles that could be sold or donated to people who cannot afford a new car.

Doesn't it make more sense to give a tax credit or other incentive to the majority of Americans to improve the fuel efficiency, safety and dependability of their current vehicle, rather than taking their tax dollars to help a small minority of consumers and pump up new car dealer profits?

-Kathleen Schmatz, president,


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Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association