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August 4, 2009

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'Clunker' initiative proves a hit

SURGING demand from the government's "cash for clunkers" program has helped lift Ford Motor Co to its first monthly increase in two years, according to the company's top sales analyst.

July sales marked the first year-on-year gain for Ford since November 2007 and apparently the first uptick by any of the six biggest carmakers since last August, George Pipas said on Sunday.

He declined to disclose a specific total before sales results are officially reported.

Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford sold a total of 161,071 vehicles in July 2008, down 15 percent from a year earlier.

The increase further testifies to the successful reception of the government rebate program, which President Barack Obama signed into law on June 24 as part of a broad US$106 billion spending bill.

"We were having a good month - and Ford's been having some good months lately - but the (clunkers) program really put us over the top for sure," Pipas said in a telephone interview.

The Car Allowance Rebate System was designed to get old, polluting vehicles off the road and scrapped while helping car dealers emerge from the recession.

Owners of gas-guzzlers could receive rebates of US$3,500 or US$4,500 toward the purchase of a new fuel-efficient car. The program proved wildly popular and led to the sale of 250,000 new vehicles in just days.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said on Sunday he expected the current US$1 billion pool, which had been expected to last until November, to be soon exhausted.

The House on Friday approved an additional US$2 billion, shifting funds from a renewable energy loan program, and the Obama administration is pressing the Senate to go along. If the Senate doesn't approve the additional funding, the program will have to be suspended.


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