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Edmunds.com fires back at White House cash-for-clunkers slam

Tiff over the success of cash-for-clunkers has the White House reaching beyond media criticism to take on even ‘apolitical’ consumer groups.

By Staff writer / October 31, 2009

Unsold Honda Accords sit on a lot in September after the end of the cash-for-clunkers program.

David Zalubowski/AP

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Atlanta

Edmunds.com CEO Jeremy Anwyl is defending his company’s claim that the Cash for Clunkers program was basically a lemon, saying a recent report simply reiterated what’s well known in the car industry: Incentive programs are “eyewateringly expensive.”

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After taking on Fox News and the US Chamber of Commerce as part of a new media strategy aimed at perceived political opponents, the White House turned its blog on Edmunds’ critical report of the $3 billion Cash for Clunkers program.

In a post titled “Busy covering car sales on Mars, Edmunds.com gets it wrong (again) on Cash for Clunkers,” the White House charged the firm with “trying to grab headlines and get on cable TV” while the analysis doesn’t withstand “basic scrutiny.”

Founded in 1966, Edmunds.com is the Santa Monica, Calif.-based publisher of the Blue Book series. Basically a consumer company supplying industry analysis to subscribers, Edmunds.com also offers the “True Market Value” tool.

So what did Edmunds do to warrant a snarl from the White House? For one thing, its report did grab headlines, including a well-read Monitor report.

According to Edmunds, only 125,000 of the 690,000 cars sold during the taxpayer-funded promotion were sales inspired by the program as opposed to those that would have happened anyway. Edmunds then divided that number by the total price tag and voilà: Each car purchased cost the American taxpayer $24,000.

Besides the no-nonsense price tag (an Edmunds’ specialty) there’s nothing new about the premise of the report, Anwyl contends. (The White House used dealer reports to highlight the program’s success while Edmunds used comparative historical sales figures to get its numbers.)

“We got real math behind this for the first time,” says Mr. Anwyl in a phone interview, before landing a friendly jab referencing this summer's "Beer Summit" at the White House. “We need to send an invitation to the President to come out, we’ll have a beer and a photo opportunity, and walk him through the data. He might find it eye-opening.”