Every day it gets harder to drive a clunker. At one time you just had to deal with the shame. Then you had to ignore the incentives offered through various government “scrappage” initiatives, like the current Retire Your Ride program. Now the automakers are throwing money at you.

Last week, Hyundai announced its Clean Air Commitment program, which promises $500 or $1,000 in cash (depending on which Hyundai you buy), if you trade in your clunker and consent to having it retired for good.

Three days later, Chrysler announced a similar program. It also raised the stakes; its minimum incentive is also $500, but its top one is worth $1,500. Chrysler also becomes the first “official” automotive partner of Retire Your Ride. (Hyundai is not on board yet, but promises to take your clunker to a participating recycler.)

Both the Hyundai and Chrysler money is on top of any incentive money they’re already offering, and on top on any money already on the table through Retire Your Ride.

Incentive options on Retire Your Ride range from $300 in cash, to coupons that can be redeemed for transit passes, bicycles, car-share fees, etc.

Whatever which way you go, you’ll need a suitable clunker to turn in — a 1995 or older model.
Retire Your Ride hopes to get 50,000 of them off the road this year. Fatima Dharsee, executive director of the Clean Air Foundation, which administers Retire Your Ride, said the tally to date is around 13,000.

“On average we were scrapping over 100 cars every day, which is right on target. But with last week’s announcements (from the automakers) we’ve seen even more interest in the program. We’re getting well over 200 cars a day now.”

Hyundai was hoping that its Clean Air Commitment program, would not be viewed as just more incentives, in a market full of incentives.

“We’re looking at this more as a CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) Initiative,” said Stephen Kelleher, president and CEO, Hyundai Auto Canada Corp. “We’re not making a lot of money of these deals. ... We thought this was a good platform for giving something back.”

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