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Ford offers UK buyers its own mini Cash for Clunkers program

The Blue Oval incentivizes scrapping the UK's old cars to boost new car sales and improve emissions.

Ford dealer sign
Barcroft Media via Getty

Remember the Car Allowance Rebate System? I thought not. How about "Cash for Clunkers"? Ah, yes. Washington's controversial $3 billion old-car scrappage scheme designed to improve vehicle emissions while incentivizing America's then-struggling auto industry. That federal consumer incentive program started and ended in 2009, and was hugely successful -- provided you were a fast-reacting consumer and purchased a qualifying new vehicle before the federal subsidy was quickly exhausted.

The jury remains out on whether America's Cash for Clunkers was actually a good thing for the environment or automakers, but that isn't stopping Ford from joining other automakers in staging its own C4C in Britain. The Blue Oval has just announced it will offer UK buyers varying incentives of between £2,000 and £7,000 (about $2,600 to $9,000) to turn in their old, polluting vehicles and purchase new ones. The amount of money awarded depends on the vehicle being turned in and the new one being purchased -- participants will net more money toward a Transit van than they will a subcompact Fiesta, for instance.

Trade-in vehicles must have been registered before Dec. 31, 2009 to qualify. That's not an arbitrary date -- that means only pre-Euro 5 emissions standards vehicles are eligible. As part of the deal, Ford guarantees the elderly vehicles will be scrapped.

According to Andy Barrett, Ford of Britain's chairman and managing director, "We don't believe incentivizing sales of new cars goes far enough and we will ensure that all trade-in vehicles are scrapped. Acting together we can take hundreds of thousands of the dirtiest cars off our roads and out of our cities."

Barrett's statement may be a subtle jab at the British authorities, who have toyed with the idea of its own national cash-for-clunkers program amid a drive to rid the UK of polluting vehicles, but a program that the government so far failed to deliver. In the absence of government support, other automakers have introduced similar vehicle turn-in incentives. The UK government recently announced it will ban the sale of gas and diesel engine vehicles by 2040.

Ford's deal runs from Sept. 1 to Dec. 31, 2017, and any traded-in vehicle has to have been in the owner's name for at least 90 days -- no picking up a scrapyard wreck just to save a few bucks on a new Ford.