Senate votes to extend 'Cash for Clunkers' program

The "Cash for Clunkers" program lives. The Senate voted Thursday evening to jump-start the ultra-popular plan with an additional $2 billion in incentives to trade in older, gas-guzzling cars for newer, more fuel-efficient models. (Update: President Obama signed the bill into law Friday morning.)

The money should keep the plan running for the rest of the summer, government officials said. It stalled after far more people than anticipated decided to exchange their automobiles, mostly light trucks and sports utility vehicles, for up to $4,500 toward a new car.

The $1 billion set aside for the program was supposed to last until November; instead, it lasted just a couple of weeks. The House passed an extension last week.

Of the 10 most popular models bought under the program, six are manufactured by foreign automakers, including the Toyota (TM) Corolla, Prius and Camry; Honda (HMC) Civic and Fit; and the Hyundai Elantra, the U.S. Department of Transportation said today.

Popular cars from American automakers include the Ford (F) Focus and Escape, the Dodge Caliber and the Chevy Cobalt. All told, vehicles made by U.S. car companies account for 45 percent of cash-for-clunkers sales, the government said. That's in line with their overall market share.

So most of the cars bought under the program are foreign -- or are they? Many of the Japanese cars seeing brisk sales under the program are assembled in the United States. Corollas are made in California, while Camrys and Civics are assembled in Indiana, according to this fascinating New York Times infographic.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, popular pick-up trucks, like the Ford F-150 and Explorer, and the Jeep Cherokee dominate the list of cars being traded in. But at the bottom of the top 10 most traded-in vehicles, there's an unexpected name: the Ford Windstar, a minivan plagued by reliability issues that hasn't been made since 2003.

What's the appeal of trading in your Windstar under the cash-for-clunkers program? Well, a six-year-old Windstar in excellent condition and with 100,000 miles on it would fetch just $2,050 in trade-in value under normal circumstances, according to Kelly Blue Book's website.

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