A government program that actually werkes!

Maybe those crafty Germans are onto something. The German government is giving consumers an incentive worth about $3,100 to buy a car if they trade in a clunker that’s at least nine years old. It worked. Car sales in Germany soared 22% last month while sales elsewhere in Europe fell like an underbaked soufflé.

This will accomplish two things. The obvious one is helping out car sales at a time when every automaker is on the ropes. The other: The best way to really improve fuel efficiency and clean the air is to get the old iron off the roads. Many of those cars have older emissions equipment and it’s probably not well maintained if a car is a decade old. So the incentive is one way to get a lot of old diesel cars off the road and get the new clean diesels out there.

And what does our stimulus package hold? A $300 incentive for car purchases. That money will be well wasted. Automakers spent another $400 a car last month on new spiffs and deals and U.S. sales still fell 40%. Obama’s $300 won’t move too many nervous consumers off the couch. And those who are buying probably would have bought anyway.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.