Clunker Faces: First Rejected, Later Approved

When Bob Elliott brought his silver 1986 Mercury Marquis to his local Ford dealer, he heard some news that he wasn’t prepared to take in: his 23 year old sedan with more than 225,000 miles on the odometer wasn’t eligible for the federal government’s CARS program. The burly construction worker hadn’t planned on buying a new car, but when the scrappage program came along he thought he’d surprise his daughter by trading in the car she drove for a new Ford Focus.

Eligible Or Not?

cash for clunkersElliott was surprised to learn that his car wasn’t eligible, having seen it featured on the qualifications list earlier. His salesman assured him that the Mercury didn’t qualify, explaining that at the last minute the EPA recalculated the mileage figures resulting in some cars being added to the list while others were removed. Undaunted, Elliott had his salesman recheck his information and sure enough his car was eligible – it turns out that the larger Grand Marquis didn’t make the list that year, while the midsize Marquis did. The Ford rep wasn’t aware that both models were sold in 1986 and keyed in the wrong information.

For Elliott, the good news which had turned bad and turned good once again was just the kind of seesaw he wasn’t looking to ride. Once he got his bearings about him, he chose a bright red 2009 Focus RS with automatic transmission which netted him $3500 from the federal government. Had he selected the manual transmission his rebate would have been $4500, but he knew that his daughter couldn’t drive a stick. Besides, with a trade-in of less than $500, Elliott was pleased with whatever deal he could arrange. And, leaving the showroom having paid less than $15,000 including taxes, tags and fees, he knew that he had a bargain courtesy of the American taxpayer.

Two Marquis Models

Elliott’s roller coaster experience was unfortunate, but probably a lot more common than has been reported and certainly understandable. For the 1986 model year, Mercury was still producing both the Grand Marquis (based on the Panther platform) and the Marquis (based on the Fox platform). Oddly, it was the smaller Marquis with a V6 engine that qualified (18 mpg) while the larger Grand Marquis with a V8 motor (19 mpg) that did not.

Disappointed shoppers are legion and include those people who have the means to buy a car, but wouldn’t have minded getting an extra rebate. Some people waited too long to buy as the Spring inventory glut has given way to the Summer sell off, as automakers trim production and moved inventory. As inventory matched demand the hefty discounts went away, replaced by more sensible rebates or low financing offers. Some buyers who weren’t eligible for CARS still got money off of the sticker price but at a far lower amount than what they would have received this past March.

As far as Elliott’s daughter, she is happy with her new Focus, enjoying the SYNC entertainment system and glad that her a/c keeps her cool on the hottest of summer days.

See Also — Clunker Car For Car Owners