on September 1, 2009 by in Uncategorized, Comments (0)

‘Clunkers’ money trickling in

Local automobile dealers, while lauding the shift in spending culture created by the federal government’s Cash for Clunkers program, are still waiting for their money for the most part.

The program, which ended Aug. 20, provided $3,500 or $4,500 vouchers for those turning in older gas-guzzling cars in order to purchase new, more fuel efficient ones. While local automobile dealers have said the federally backed program and independently conducted sales spun off from the popular system have resulted in a positive shot in the arm for the industry, the success comes with no small amount of aggravation.

“The problem with it is it was too successful too quick,” said Buddy King, general manager of Leader Ford in Seneca, explaining that he thought the government had not properly planned and staffed for the meteoric rise in popularity of the government scrapping program.

King’s dealership sold five cars and sent the applications — which consist of some 16 pages each — to Washington electronically, and has received two rejections and two approvals, with another still pending. He’s still seen no reimbursement.

Bobby Wood Chevrolet in Walhalla conducted more Cash for Clunkers business than any in the area, selling 28 vehicles ranging from Colorados to Colbalts to Silverado trucks. Out of the 28, General Manager Michael Polimeni said they’ve received reimbursement for four of them.

“We started getting reimbursements about two weeks ago. It’s still slow coming, but we’ve had some problems with people apparently not putting in the right information on the applications,” Polimeni said. It’s taken 18 to 20 days per unit to get paid on. If they do kick it back due to missing information, you just have add the information and send it right back to them.”

Polimeni still lauded the program, which he said took dangerous, inefficient cars off of the road while also activating the industry’s work force to restock suddenly depleted inventories across the country.

“Hopefully that will be the stimulus we needed to get things back on track,” he added.

But Danny Edwards, co-owner of Edwards Auto Sales in Walhalla, said the otherwise positive program has been a logistical nightmare mired in inefficiency.

“We haven’t been paid for anything, I can tell you that,” said Edwards, whose dealership sold 10 cars in the program. “It’s very tedious and very poorly run. If you needed to get in touch with someone to ask a particular question, it was impossible. It isn’t necessarily a poor plan, but the logistics were just not worked out ahead of time.”

Edwards did say that the Cash for Clunkers program created a robust traffic increase into his dealership.

“It created a lot of interest. We had a lot of business that didn’t qualify for the clunker program,” he said.