National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

The Consumer Assistance to Recycle and Save (CARS) program, commonly known as “Cash for Clunkers,” provided qualified vehicle owners the opportunity to receive a monetary credit for trading in their vehicle and purchasing or leasing a new, more fuel-efficient vehicle. The program was launched by the Obama Administration to boost the struggling automotive industry at the height of the economic recession and to help reduce environmental impacts associated with vehicles. It was so successful that the initial $1 billion dollars allocated for the program was increased to $3 billion to meet consumer demand. Phase One provided the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) with enterprise architecture and business transformation support for the CARS program.

Why This Matters To You

While the long-term economic and environmental impacts of the program have yet to be realized, the immediate effects were profound. The most significant statistic, given the economic environment in which the program was launched, is that over 60,000 jobs were either created or saved as a direct result of CARS. The program saved the jobs of automotive parts manufacturers, local auto dealers, and repairmen across the country. NHTSA estimates that 49% of the new vehicles sold were manufactured domestically. In addition, the agency’s forecasts show that the program resulted in a $3.8 billion to $6.8 billion increase in GDP, causing a significant upward movement in the national GDP average. CARS was also credited with turning year-over-year decreases in auto sales into significant increases.

CARS also helped realize a significant reduction in fuel consumption. Approximately 33 million gallons of gas will be saved annually over the next twenty-five years. NHTSA predicts that the program will
prevent 9 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) from being released into the air over the next twenty-five years. The social benefits associated with this reduction in CO2 equal a savings of over $278 million dollars.

How We Helped

After NHTSA had a rocky start due to unexpectedly high demand on the systems supporting CARS, Phase One was asked to support NHTSA with several aspects of the CARS program. Phase One’s primary focus was to provide enterprise architecture and business transformation support services to CARS. The Phase One team accomplished these goals by documenting the IT systems that executed the CARS program, ensuring the capture of crucial architectural elements, and ultimately populating the information into a repository for reporting purposes. Phase One also advised NHTSA during the crucial juncture as the agency adjusted its IT systems to meet unexpected consumer participation over and above initial estimates. In fact, NHTSA was able to triple the volume of participants through the CARS systems in a fraction of the time the agency had originally forecasted. Following the official conclusion of the CARS program, the team assisted with two audits of the execution of the program, and provided technical writing support for the official Report to Congress on the execution of the program and a response to a congressional inquiry on IT system vulnerabilities.

Phase One is continuing to support NHTSA in developing a knowledge library and writing additional documentation for the CARS program.