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Congress Refuels 'Clunkers' Program

On Wednesday, the Transportation Department published new figures showing that a total of 184,304 trades had consumed $775.2 million of the $1 billion originally appropriated. The Toyota Corolla is the best-selling new car under the clunker program. After the Corolla, the top sellers are the Ford Focus, Honda Civic and Toyota's Prius and Camry.

Of the new vehicles not manufactured by the Big Three, according to a preliminary analysis by the Transportation Department, "well over half" were made in United States. Of the trade-ins, more than 80 percent were trucks, the government said, with Ford's Explorer and F-150 pickup topping the list. The average miles per gallon of the new vehicles is 25.3, compared with the trade-ins that averaged 15.8 miles per gallon.

The program, however, has been plagued by troubles. Consumers were confused as to which cars qualified. Dealers said they have spent hours trying to log on to the government's Web sites to put in paperwork on the deals they completed. Some dealers said they ran into problems collecting government payments.

Transportation officials say they have resolved those issues by adding computer capacity and beefing up contracted staff to help run the program.

Some auto analysts and economists are skeptical about the program's long-term impact.

"The Cash for Clunkers at this point is like one of those energy drinks," said Anthony Sabino, a professor of law and business at St. John's University in New York. "It gives you a short-term boost, then you crash and you fall back into the doldrums."

Staff writer Paul Kane contributed to this report.

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