“Cash for Clunkers” – Clunker by Country Vizualization

December 23, 2009

I’m currently working on a chapter for the upcoming O’Reilly book “Beautiful Visualization” (a new book in the “Beautiful” series) and one of the things that I do is walk readers step by step through gathering data and sifting through it in order to create a visualization from the Cash for Clunkers data.

As I was looking through the Cash for Clunkers data, I was fascinated by the extent to which it seemed that the clunkers being turned in were disproportionally from companies based in the US. So I dug into the data and found out that it didn’t just seem that way… 85% of the cars “clunked” came from US based manufacturers.

So I decided to create a visualization to identify which countries gained market share due to the Cash for Clunkers program. So… here it is. Click for a larger view. (caveats below).

You can access the raw data here.


  1. Yes, nearly all Toyota and Honda and Hyundai vehicles are built in the US. I used the “where is the parent company headquartered” as my way of determining country size. That made for a more compelling image.
  2. It makes a certain kind of sense that people would dump a lot of old US-made vehicles because US manufacturers were at the forefront of the SUV boom in the early-mid 2000’s (aughts? oughts? naughts? This next decade will be so much easier), so it seems to make sense that people who bought SUV’s would be most eligible for a Cash for Clunkers rebate. If you bought a fuel efficient Toyota Camry in 2002, you’re not going to be eligible to trade your vehicle in, so it seem unlikely that you would do so.

With all that being said, I think it’s obvious that US manufacturers have lost market share on these transactions. I’d need to do a shade more research, but my understanding is that Ford (which didn’t take any bailout cash) didn’t do too badly while Chrysler and GM saw a large number of their vehicles turned in and comparatively very little purchasing.

What does this mean for the future? I don’t know. This was more for fun and for my book chapter than for anything else. And if you want to learn how to do something like this, just buy “Beautiful Visualization” when it comes out.

10 Responses to ““Cash for Clunkers” – Clunker by Country Vizualization”

  1. Al Says:

    Haven’t even read this new entry yet and I’m already excited. Just sayin’.

    • Al Says:

      I wasn’t disappointed. And yes, I’ll buy a book or three when it comes out.

      I’m not surprised by what your visualisation shows, but I am not sure what to make of it, either. Having foreign-owned companies build their cars here is far preferable to having them made overseas, but it is troubling to see our own manufacturing base shrivel.

      One thing I do know: Having all of those SUVs crushed out of the used-car market has certainly increased the value of my two not-turned-in SUVs.

  2. KingShamus Says:

    One more indication that when it comes to big government economic programs, the right hand doesn’t know who the left foot is tripping.

  3. Heavens, I love this site. Keeeewl.

    Though to be sure on the whole CFC thing, government defends the programs (and for some reason I ran into an ACORN activist who to this moment would cry foul at the graph by claiming that it misrepresents the goals of CFC to merely move old inventory, and get consumers into more fuel efficient cars–NOT as a handout to Detroit as some claim, etc).

  4. Also, and giving full attribution first (I’ll run you a rough draft copy if you like) I would certainly like to borrow and post that handy graphic regarding CFC.

    Very compelling.

    Let me know when you can. No hurries, as more such government programs are likely to come our way on a variety of products as yet more enviro-friendly glop on behalf of mother earth and the poor consumer.

  5. KB Says:

    Hey Political Math,

    I have written books for O’Reilly (and Wiley, and Pearson, etc), thought you might want to touch base outside of this public venue. I assume you can track me down via the email you should see on this post.

    Are you working as a for hire to one of the authors? Are you one of the authors? Who’s the editor? Simon? Brian?


  6. LOUDelf Says:

    Yet another great illustration! Keep ’em coming, people on my blog are loving them!

  7. pierce Says:

    cash for clunkers was such a succesful program. one of the many things that obama is doing for the country

  8. Jane Says:

    I guess that’s true. Obama might do this technique too.

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