The “Cash for Clunkers” proposal a plan for a national incentive program through the Department of Energy for voluntary retirement of vehicles that aren’t fuel-efficient was removed from the Senate’s economic stimulus plan this week. Chuck Sulkala, executive director of the National Auto Body Council (NABC), believes that "Cash for Clunkers" is vital to the industry and is urging collision repairers to contact members of Congress immediately to ask them to reinstate the program into the stimulus package.
The following is an open letter from Sulkala:
This industry needs your help now.
Sometimes you just need to stand up and help yourself since others seem to be taking care of themselves. Sometimes when the effort is so simple and easy, it’s the one that gets the least response. But today, I’m urging each of you to do as I’m doing: write an e-mail, make a phone call or just spend a half hour to help yourself in your business by speaking out on the benefits of the “Cash for Clunkers” portion of the Economic Stimulus package being proposed.
Below is a letter that I’m sending to my Senators and Congressmen as well as to Senators Reid, Baccus, Collins and Snowe. I’m also sending it to Congressmen Obey, Rangell, Pelosi, Hoyer and Oberstar. This is not something that can be put off until tomorrow, if we have any hope of changing the Economic Stimulus package. To allow for at least some benefit for the collision industry, now is the time you must act. The “Cash for Clunkers” proposal was removed from the bill. It needs to be added back.
We repair new vehicles, not “clunkers.” Our business will improve when the average age of vehicles on the road gets younger, not older. Newer cars get repaired, older ones get totaled or never fixed. If we expect any sort of turnaround in the collision repair industry, then we need to help our customers get into newer vehicles. A “Cash for Clunkers” proposal absolutely does that. By giving consumers a chance to get cash from the government for their old cars provided they buy new, more efficient new cars, we’re giving a stimulus shot right into the heartland of America, our own local communities.
Neighborhood dealers get increased sales, we get a newer fleet to work on and insurers get customers who want and need to buy insurance again. I’m not one who looks for more government programs, but it’s very clear to me that if funds are going to be distributed anyway in order to stimulate the economy, then where better than with our customers in our communities? Not only does this plan help them decrease their purchase prices, it also helps them from continuing to pour money into decrepit vehicles that end up costing more out of their pocket every year, with little if any of that going to increase or restore the value.
I urge you to please look this over and decide for yourself whether this is important to you and your customers. If it is, then today, right now, needs to be the time to take action. Otherwise, it will be too late and we will have lost out.
The people I’ve listed above need to hear from us immediately. They’re the key ones to help change this bill as it currently sits. Whether you like them or not, whether they’re your Representatives and Senators or not, they have the power and we need their help.
Visit usa.gov to see a listing of Representatives and Senators. Click on the ones you want to contact and either write your own message or copy mine (below). I don’t care how you get it done, I just care that it gets done. There is no pride of ownership when it comes to survival.
Thank you for listening and thank you for your help by acting today.
National Auto Body Council
Dear (Senator or Representative),
It has come to my attention that the “Cash for Clunkers” proposal, which had been a part of the Senate stimulus package, has been deleted.
I’m asking for your immediate reconsideration and help in reversing this action. The proposal’s absence in the stimulus package is sure to have multiple adverse effects on the entire automotive industry. Contrary to what some individuals have theorized regarding the damage “Cash for Clunkers” will have on the automotive industry, it is exactly what America needs and goes straight to the heart of what’s required to help stimulate commerce at the grassroots level of this country. If the goal of the stimulus package is to get the average consumer back on a responsible spending track, “Cash for Clunkers” does this several different ways:
1. It promotes the purchase of new, more energy efficient vehicles by the consumer, one of the best ways to stimulate automotive sales. Vehicle manufacturers need to SELL the inventory they have, and they need to start making more vehicles that will be SOLD at some point in the future. Simply “giving” the car company a bailout or a loan does not accomplish this as effectively as having consumers go to their neighborhood dealers to buy new vehicles. Funds sitting in the vehicle manufacturer’s bank do nothing to stimulate the local economy, certainly not the way it could be done if it were in the hands of consumers who will spend if they can or won’t if they can’t. Either way, funds will not go to waste on something other than that for which they were intended to get automotive fleets modernized by consumers spending money in their own home towns.
2. It helps facilitate increased public self-respect and self-esteem. Driving a new vehicle as opposed to a “clunker” is a powerful and tangible reinforcement of the message, “The economy is changing for the better.” Better outlooks lead to better realities. When people feel good about themselves, they feel good about the future and have greater respect for their place in life. “Clunkers” pollute the air, waste gas and are eyesores. Getting them off the street is a laudable goal a symbol for societal healing, and much more.
3. New vehicles are a persuasive argument for banks that otherwise would be less than inclined to loan money on large purchases like new homes, but a new vehicle is within the reach of ALL responsible citizens America’s mainstream, not just its upper tiers. In addition, a new vehicle requires insurance, which helps get the insurance industry back on its feet. A marketplace with many uninsured or underinsured vehicles is a threat to any driver who gets injured or sustains vehicular damage in an accident with such a motorist. Furthermore, when the victim is not adequately covered by the offender’s insurance policy, an additional drain on the government is a likely result.
4. The collision industry repairs newer vehicles, not old “clunkers," a fact that some arguing against “Cash for Clunkers” may not fully understand. When an older car gets damaged, one of two things usually happens: the car is either totaled because of its diminished value (and not fixed at all), or, if still running, the car is driven in its damaged state, creating a roadway hazard, because the customer has “cashed out.”
5. The collision industry is already suffering a serious crisis because of decreased accidents. Quality shops are closing and qualified technicians are out of work, looking to start anew in a different industry. Collision facilities cannot move overseas, they are locally based, hire local people and buy from local suppliers. They spend their money in your community and in mine, which ends up helping others to sell their services and wares. This revs up the economic recovery engine at the grassroots level where it has its greatest impact we buy in America and we spend in America with our friends and neighbors who need us to help them survive this downturn, just as we need them.
If your desire is for the stimulus package to help benefit Americans as soon as possible, “Cash for Clunkers” does just that. The proposal encourages and entices those with the wherewithal to do so to get their old gas guzzlers off the road and buy new, energy-efficient cars from the dealer down the street. This money gets the automotive industry back to what it needs to be doing selling cars and it does so responsibly by allowing those that can to do so. Fuel economy improves, and money begins to flow.
Removing this measure from the stimulus package takes away that opportunity to spend responsibly from consumers. If they don’t, they risk having to make a decision: Do they spend needed money to fix and repair the vehicle, or do they pay the rent or buy food? Owners may be forced to drive inefficient cars that pollute the air while trying to hold onto what little funding they have. In the meantime, huge sums of money go to manufacturers to build more vehicles that continue TO NOT BE SOLD. Is there something stimulating in this effort that I’m missing? I don’t think the consumer sees it either.
One final note: We at the National Auto Body Council would be delighted to take some of those older “Clunkers,” give them a facelift and place them into our “Recycled Rides” program. There, they’d be given away to families in need of viable, basic transportation to drive for medical treatment, find and get to a job, or otherwise climb back on the road to success without being deprived of that basic need.
This past year, Recycled Rides, along with several other similar programs in the collision industry, gave several million dollars worth of vehicles away free of charge to disadvantaged, yet deserving citizens. Your support of reinstating this proposal would help get consumers going again and provide an opportunity to swell the ranks of a healthy mainstream America. We would be delighted to assist in coordinating such efforts. By giving “clunkers” a makeover, they can become “Recycled Rides” for those who do not have basic transportation. Allow Americans to buy locally and many will benefit by where they spend their money. "Cash for Clunkers" does just that.
Again, I urge your immediate reconsideration of the “Cash for Clunkers” proposal and would welcome the opportunity to speak with you or your staff.
Charles S. Sulkala
National Auto Body Council