Washington, D.C. – The Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) is disputing claims that vehicle scrappage programs, currently under debate in the U.S., will clean the air or reduce the country’s dependency on foreign oil. SEMA contends that the programs do more environmental harm than good, and deny cash incentives to millions of Americans who want to buy a new car.

Scrappage programs accelerate the demise of older vehicles, which are typically crushed. The “cash for clunkers” programs focus on a car’s age or fuel efficiency rating, rather than its actual emissions or how much it is driven, SEMA said. The scrappage debate was recently revived when President Obama endorsed scrappage as part of an overall strategy to help rebuild the U.S. auto industry.

SEMA said that given the low value of the cash vouchers being offers to consumers to purchase a new vehicle, generally ranging from US$2,000 to $5,000, vehicles traded in for demolition could include late-model vehicles damaged in crashes or with mechanical problems. The programs would also collect rarely-driven second and third vehicles.

The association also said that while supporters tout a similar German program as evidence of success, the European Federation for Transport and the Environment has urged Germany and other countries to abandon scrappage subsidies, arguing that they do more environmental harm than good by artificially accelerating the car’s life cycle. The programs do not calculate the estimated 15 to 20 per cent of CO2 emissions associated with manufacturing a new replacement car.

In February, Congress rejected vehicle scrappage when it passed the economic stimulus bill. Lawmakers are now revisiting two approaches, including car buyers receiving cash vouchers for scrapping an SUV or pickup truck that gets 18 m.p.g. (13.0 L/100 km) or less, or crushing traded-in vehicles older than eight years. SEMA said that under the first program, owners of fuel-efficient 1980s or 1990s cars could not get a voucher to trade up to a new car, while under the second program, the vehicle would be destroyed.

“SEMA supports sensible solutions to help spur car sales and clean the enviromment,” said Chris Kersting, SEMA president and CEO. “Vehicle scrappage programs fail on both counts. Congress and the President should reject programs that are ripe for fraud, abuse and a waste of taxpayer dollars.”

Connect with Autos.ca