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In 2004, The Oprah Winfrey Show decided to give away almost 300 brand new Pontiac G6 models to the audience. Of course, this caused quite a stir and prompted many to parody the iconic moment by repeating Oprah saying, “You get a car, you get a car.” However, by now, most people know this isn’t the full story. Still, the story goes beyond the audience members having to pay taxes on the new cars.

The Oprah Show audience wasn’t random that day

Everyone remembers Oprah saying, “You get a car,” to her excited audience as she essentially gave them all a brand new Pontiac G6. It became a meme before memes were a thing and has been cemented in pop culture history. However, not everyone who was in the audience for the Oprah car giveaway was able to keep it.

As many are already aware, the audience members had to pay federal and state income taxes on the car. General Motors covered the state sales taxes. According to reports, this amounted to around $7,000 that the audience needed to be able to afford at the time. With inflation, this would be about double today.

The Oprah car giveaway was for a Pontiac G6
2004 Pontiac G6 | Photo credit should read JEFF HAYNES/AFP via Getty Images

The other part of the story behind the Oprah car giveaway is that the audience wasn’t random, which is the case on most talk shows. According to Motor1, the producers specifically found audience members who needed a car. While the staff at the Oprah show may have been well intending, it seems a bit harsh to gather people who need a vehicle only for many of them to not be able to keep it.

According to CNN Money, the audience members had three choices. First, they could pay the taxes on the car in order to keep it. The second choice was that they could sell the car to pay the taxes and keep the profit. Of course, the last option was to forfeit the Pontiac G6.

Who paid for the Pontiac G6 models the audience got

One of the reasons people give Oprah so much credit for the car giveaway is because many believe that she, or the show’s budget, paid for the cars the audience members got. However, this isn’t the case. The cars has an MSRP of about $28,000 and General Motors paid for them from its advertising budget.

It has been reported that the cost for all 276 cars was about $7.7 million. Additionally, the “you get a car moment” from Oprah is said to have been Gayle King’s idea. Reports say that the show was originally only going to give out 25 cars but kept requesting more from the automaker.

Nowadays, the general public doesn’t remember this iconic moment as fondly as they once did due to the audience members having such a high cost for what was supposed to be a gift. Still, this has gone down as one of the most talked about moments in talk show history.