published Monday, May 11th, 2009

Lowering the gas gauge

by Adam Crisp
Audio clip

Zach Wamp

A deal to offer consumers up to $4,500 to trade in their fuel-guzzling vehicles for something that sips has Chattanooga officials wondering if the same sort of incentive might be heading their way.

If it does, you can expect to see quite a few more hybrids and other fuel-efficient cars in the city’s fleet, they say.

“We’ve already bought a few Toyota Priuses for parking patrols, and we’ve been really happy with those,” said Paul Page, director of Chattanooga General Services. “We’ve already cut fuel consumption 100,000 gallons by doing that and making other changes, so we’d definitely be ready if the incentive was offered.”

  • photo
    Staff Photo by Allison Kwesell A Chattanooga Police officer drives a Toyota Prius hybrid car while issuing parking tickets. The fleet currently has three hybrid cars.

Talks among congressional leaders have mentioned offering stimulus money to cities and businesses that trade heavy, less fuel-efficient vehicles for more fuel-efficient models, including hybrids.

But the cash comes with a few strings. Purchasers might have to buy at least $500,000 worth of vehicles and, if it’s like the proposal being floated for consumers, the trade-in vehicles would have to be destroyed.

Such incentives for individual car buyers have been offered in Germany, home of VW, which is building a plant in Chattanooga. Those incentives have led to a jump in auto sales in recent months.

Bill Ford, executive chairman of Ford Motor Co., said two weeks ago on “Larry King Live” that such a proposal extended to government and business would stimulate auto production.

“There’s no question that this is a really tough market. And that's why we actually need some stimulus to get it going,” Mr. Ford said. “What that does is really two things. One, it helps the environment by getting the less fuel-efficient, less-clean cars off the road. And the other thing it does is it helps stimulate sales.”

Ford touts its Focus, which gets between 25 and 35 miles per gallon, as a good option for businesses looking to lighten the thirst of their fleets. If the deal was offered to governments, Chattanooga would look at all of the light, gas-sipping brands offered, Mr. Page said.

But Congress shouldn’t drag its feet, says one area Toyota dealer. Already, consumers have heard about the $4,500 deal being floated for them, and they have decided to wait to buy.

“In some ways, it’s sort of hurt our business,” said Jonathan Logan, sales manager for North Georgia Toyota in Dalton, Ga. “People have come in, asked, and we told them it’s not available yet, so they’ve decided to wait.”

The consumer-oriented proposal appears bogged down in Congress for now. Congressional Quarterly reported last week that Senate and House versions differ on specifics, but it appears the massive pot of stimulus money would be used to pay for the proposal.

  • photo
    Staff Photo by Tim Barber North Georgia Toyota sales manager Jonathan Logan waits for assistance with doors before backing a 2009 Toyota Prius into the showroom.

“The deal is a triple play for our economy,” Rep. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., chairman of the House Energy and the Environment Subcommittee, said in Congressional Quarterly. “We can reduce our dangerous dependence on imported oil and help the struggling American auto industry.”

Aside from that, if the deal moves forward, city leaders say it would be a double bonus because they would save money and reduce Chattanooga’s carbon footprint.

“This is a great buy, and it would be foolish not to take advantage of it,” Mr. Page said. “We’re going to look at it immediately, because it could save us money and reduce the amount of carbon we put into the air.”

about Adam Crisp...

Adam Crisp covers education issues for the Times Free Press. He joined the paper's staff in 2007 and initially covered crime, public safety, courts and general assignment topics. Prior to Chattanooga, Crisp was a crime reporter at the Savannah Morning News and has been a reporter and editor at community newspapers in southeast Georgia. In college, he led his student paper to a first-place general excellence award from the Georgia College Press Association. He earned ...

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orinwk said...

OK, now how is it the City of Chattanooga is helping the domestic manufacturing market by buying cars made overseas?

May 11, 2009 at 2:01 a.m.
rolando said...

Excuse me but I find it very hard to believe the city cut gasoline usage by 100,000 gallons by buying THREE lousy Prius battery-driven cars. That means those three cars save 33,000 gallons of gas EACH at an untold total cost over an unknown period. I bet the rent money that cost far outweighs the value returned.

Now I don't know what kind of guzzlers the city used before, but that is VERY poor 100,000 miles of driving a 4,200 lb Magnum for 4 years I used roughly 4,000 gallons or ONLY TEN PERCENT of the city's claimed saving. So they used Hummer H-1s or something? Exactly what kind of depreciation and life-of-product comparison are they using to justify buying a foreign-made, pollution-producing battery car, using OUR money? [The production of those batteries is absolution filthy.]

Sounds like someone is cooking the books to make a silk purse of a sow's ear Prius and to make their purchase look better than it is.

The city needs to do a little homework before accepting ANYTHING from this administration that requires the purchase of $500,000 worth of new cars just to save $4,500 each. Do the math, guys!

This, and the $4,500 taxpayer-supported "give-away", is a scam...just another government Ponzi scheme. A real cost/saving comparison will not hold up to close scrutiny. As usual with this administration, the taxpayer again takes it in the shorts.

May 11, 2009 at 8:11 a.m.
pigsken said...

Two things come to mind. (1) Why does the downtown parking patrol need vehicles anyway? Hire another MM and tell them to walk around downtown. (2) The old saying is "You have to spend money to make money." not "You have to spend money to save money."

May 11, 2009 at 9:51 a.m.
chatt31 said...

i find it appaulling that the city of Chattanooga police brag on cars that were made overseas. What is our Mayor doing? With GM and Chrysler preparing to go bankrupt, you would think that the city of Chattanooga would support American-made. Now I know VW is coming soon-- I bet you Mayor Littlefield has already talked to VW about providing VW's for the city for a reduced cost. I honeslty can not believe and wil not believe by buying 3 of those efficiant cars the city will save $100,000 in fuel- NO Way-- Now if they were driving a army tank and I mean litterally an army tank around-- Yes- but come on-- someone is trying to pull peoples legs to make the situation look better than it is. Yes I am sure they are better on gas, But not that much-- if they were every citizen would be buying one and say to hell to VW coming!!!

May 11, 2009 at 9:58 a.m.
nucanuck said...

A suggestion:

For maximum effeciency in cost,area covered,and revenue generated,the parking patrols should be equiped with motor scooters.Scooters don't block traffic when stopped for ticketing;they allow the patrol optimum field of vision;they allow the patrol to easily mark time lines on tires without dismounting(using a wand);and the only equipment needed is the scooter,a rainsuit,and a wand.

This system is so much more effecient than using cars that the city might be able to increase the area coverage with less staff.Needless to say,the fuel consumption would be far less than a Prius.

A side benefit might be reduction in opportunity for patrol staff to park and read or snooze;an abuse which happens all too often.

May 11, 2009 at 11:32 a.m.
fisher18_80 said...

"100,000 gallons by doing that and making other changes"

They didn't say they saved 100,000 gallons by using the hybrids alone. Read closer.

May 11, 2009 at 9:44 p.m.
Oz said...

The Prius cost a minimum of $5,000 more than a Chevrolet Cobalt or Ford Focus before factoring in any incentives. Currently the Cobalt would be around $7,500 less with incentives. Plus the City probably gets a better discount than Joe Citizen. Also, the city could pick up 3 or 4 miles to the gallon using the Chevrolet Impala as a police car instead of the Ford Crown Victoria. They must be using "Everday Math" at City Hall to calculate that 100,000 gallon savings.

May 11, 2009 at 9:48 p.m.
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