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Cash for Clunkers Spurs Consumers to Dealerships and the Web
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Cash for Clunkers Spurs Consumers to Dealerships and the Web

Julie Enzweiler, Automotive Research Director, Online Division

Despite the negative online buzz that the Obama administration’s “Cash for Clunkers” program received pre- and post-launch of the program, it appears to have been incentive enough to spur many consumers back into their local dealerships and to the Web to discuss and to research both the rebate and the automotive manufacturers themselves. In the two weeks following the launch, overall buzz for the government program increased 123 percent. However, in the last few weeks we have seen buzz levels begin to decline.

Negative Buzz Increases Post Launch of “Cash for Clunkers”

In the two months prior to the official launch of the CARS (Car Allowance Rebate System) program, 10.5 percent of all discussions were positive, while an additional 10.7 percent of the discussion focused on actual intent to purchase a car through the Clunkers program. On the other side of the argument, 7.9 percent of the discussions were negative, containing sentiments like this New York Times blog comment:

“The worst part about this program is that the government is encouraging people to take on more debt. Those clunkers are mostly PAID FOR. Why on earth are we telling U.S. citizens to go and take out another big loan on a depreciating asset? It’s absolutely ridiculous.”

While positive sentiment around the U.S. government’s program outweighed the negative in the weeks prior to the launch of the program, bloggers began to shift their opinions in the week following the official launch, with negative buzz increasing to 10.1 percent of all discussions and conversations that focused on purchase intent fell to 7.1 percent. As the program quickly ran out of money, negative buzz again increased, growing to 11.4 percent while intent to buy continued its downward trajectory, this time falling to 6.1 percent of all CARS discussions online.

% of CARS Buzz
Buzz Type Pre-Launch

6/1-7/27

Post-Launch

Pre-suspension

7/28-7/29

Post-Suspension

7/30-8/8

Positive 10.5% 10.7% 11.4%
Negative 7.9% 10.1% 11.4%
Consider Purchasing 10.7% 7.1% 6.1%
Source: The Nielsen Company

CARS.gov Attracts the Wealthy

Online visitors were also heading over to the government Web site created specifically for the program, www.cars.gov. Month-over-month, unique visitors to the site increased 733 percent, from 287,000 unique visitors in June 2009 to 2.4 million in July. Unique visitors between the ages of 35 and 49 were 35 percent more likely than the average Internet user to visit cars.gov. Contrary to what many may assume, visitors to the site also over-indexed among the wealthy. People who make between $100k and $149k were 33 percent more likely to visit the site, and visitors who earned over $150k were 36 percent more likely to visit the site in July.

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