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Several US lawmakers have again raised the idea of providing federal vouchers to consumers to replace older vehicles with new, fuel-efficient cars, hoping that the recent success of a programme in Germany would give the proposal new momentum.

Representative Betty Sutton, an Ohio Democrat, has introduced a bill authorising what supporters call a “cash for clunkers” programme, designed to stimulate auto sales while reducing pollution, her office told Dow Jones Newswires. Supporters unsuccessfully attempted to get the programme included in the recently enacted federal government economic stimulus plan.

According to the report, the new bill would provide vouchers worth US$3,000 to US$5,000 to consumers who trade in vehicles built at least eight years ago. The voucher’s size would be determined by the fuel economy of the car being purchased.

Vouchers would be limited to purchases of cars with a fuel economy of at least 27 miles per gallon on highways. For trucks, the standard would be 24mpg. Consumers could also opt to use the vouchers toward mass-transit use.

Sutton, who sits on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said in a statement that US auto sales have dropped by more than 40% in the past year. “This trend, which affects all auto makers, must be quickly reversed to preserve American jobs,” she said.

Dow Jones noted that auto industry officials have called for such a programme to stimulate new vehicle sales.

General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner said yesterday in Washington that a “cash for clunkers” programme, subsidised by the government, could help spur demand, noting that similar programmes have had success in other markets, including Germany, where incentives given to buyers willing to turn in an older vehicle in order to buy a new one helped boost sales considerably in February.

Here in the UK, the government is under pressure to introduce a similar scheme worth GBP2,500 if a car nine years or older is traded in.