August 6, 2009 / 1:47 AM / 11 years ago

U.S. "clunker" sales top 180,000: officials

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Sales under the U.S. government’s “cash for clunkers” auto incentive topped 180,000 with Toyota Motor Corp overtaking Ford Motor Co with the top-selling vehicle, officials said on Wednesday.

Vic Credu moves a vehicle to be crushed at U.S. Auto Supply in Detroit, Michigan August 3, 2009. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

Separately, a Senate vote on a $2 billion proposal to extend the popular program was set for Thursday after Democrats and Republicans agreed to consider seven possible amendments.

All seven are expected to be defeated, Democratic aides said, clearing the way for final passage of the measure passed last week by the House of Representatives.

“There’s a significant majority that wants to move forward with this legislation,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said before reaching an agreement with Republicans on how to proceed.

The White House supports the extension.

Transportation Department figures show federal reimbursements under the program, which offers rebates of up to $4,500 when consumers trade in older cars for new more fuel efficient ones, totaled $775.2 million.

The consumer response since dealers began offering “clunker” rebates in July has been overwhelming, government and industry officials say.

They expect sales already confirmed by the government and those completed by dealers but not yet through the regulatory pipeline will come close to exhausting the incentive’s $1 billion budget.

More than 80 percent of vehicles traded-in were light trucks, including sport utilities, pickups and vans, while 59 percent of the new vehicles purchased were passenger cars, which as a class are more fuel efficient.

Toyota’s Corolla sedan overtook the Ford Focus as the best-selling vehicle in the “clunker” program. Toyota had two other passenger cars, the Prius hybrid and the Camry, in the top five. The Honda Motor Co Civic was No. 3.

Vehicles made by U.S. manufacturers accounted for all of the top 10 traded-in vehicles, which is to be expected since rebate terms require the older model get no more than 18 miles per gallon in most cases.

The “clunker” group included five light truck models made by Ford. The list also included three Jeep and Dodge brands made by Chrysler and two GM Chevy models.

Increasing gas mileage and lowering tailpipe emissions are key goals of the program, which is mainly aimed at boosting U.S. sales overall and helping General Motors Co and Chrysler Group recover from bankruptcy.

New vehicles sold under the program average 25.3 miles per gallon while those traded-in got 18.5 mpg.

Reporting by John Crawley and Thomas Ferraro; editing by Carol Bishopric

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