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US Senate extends 'cash for clunkers' scheme

The US Senate voted on Thursday to inject another 2 billion dollars in the popular 'cash for clunkers' scheme, which encourages drivers to trade in polluting cars and trucks for more fuel-efficient vehicles.

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AFP - The US Senate voted on Thursday to inject two billion dollars into a program, dubbed "Cash for Clunkers," that lets consumers trade in gas-guzzling cars and trucks for more fuel efficient vehicles.

Under pressure from President Barack Obama, senators voted 60-37 to approve the rescue, which cleared the House of Representatives last week and now heads to the White House to be signed into law.

"Now, more American consumers will have the chance to purchase newer, more fuel efficient cars and the American economy will continue to get a much-needed boost," Obama said in a statement minutes after the vote.

Calling the program a "proven success" that is helping put people back to work, the president said initial transactions were generating 50 percent more fuel economy and 700 to 1,000 dollars in annual consumer savings due to reduced gas costs.

The plan offers owners of old cars and trucks up to 4,500 dollars toward a new, more-efficient vehicle, in a move supporters say has pulled the US auto industry back from the edge and helped the environment.

Early trade-ins "are getting the oldest, dirtiest and most air polluting trucks and SUVs off the road for good," Obama said, adding that the scheme "benefits our recovery and our auto industry while reducing our economy's dependence on oil."

The program, also known as CARS, is modeled on similar programs in France, Germany, Italy and Spain that have had some success in sparking sales of new autos.

The auto industry, still reeling from a collapse in sales last fall which helped contribute to the bankruptcies of both General Motors and Chrysler, says it can sorely use the help.

"Consumers have already cast their vote and the CARS program is a clear winner," said GM sales vice president Mark LaNeve.

"Our customers and dealers appreciate Congress's help in keeping the program's momentum going and providing the stimulus to put more clean, fuel-efficient vehicles on the road. CARS is one program that has given consumers, the economy and a vital industry a much needed boost."

While the program boosted auto sales by as much as 200,000 vehicles in a single week, overall industry sales remain at levels not seen since the recession of the early 1980s.

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