As program winds down, dealers await Clunkers cash

TUPELO – Like many automobile dealers across the country, Clay Carlock has mixed feelings about the “Cash for Clunkers” program, which helped spur sales of new cars thanks to a $3 billion cash infusion by the federal government.
The program ends Monday at 7 p.m., a month after it began. All new deals have to be completed and dealers must file their paperwork by the deadline in order to get reimbursed.
But the paperwork and delays in processing for what should have been a relatively easy transaction between dealers and customers caused confusion and headaches for many dealers, some of whom opted out of the program.
Carlock stuck with it, but is hoping it pays off as promised.
“Cash for clunkers livened up business, and it was a shot in the arm,” he said, who owns Carlock Toyota and Carlock Nissan in Toyota. “But we still haven’t seen a dime.”
Larry Clark Buick Chevrolet Cadillac Pontiac and GMC in Amory has had a little better luck, having gotten paid on a few cars.
“The program has spurred the market, but the payment process has been slow,” Clark said.
Under the clunkers program, dealers could give customers up to $4,500 credit on qualified trade-ins. The government then repays the dealers.
But according to the Transportation Department, the agency has paid out only about $150 million of the rebates.
Carlock said about 60 cars have been sold through Clunkers between his two Tupelo dealerships.
“We’ve got some $250,000 sitting out there waiting to be paid,” Carlock said.
Also troubling Carlock and other dealers is that some applications have been rejected. Carlock said the first eight applications from the Toyota dealership were rejected, but are being reviewed again.
“It was a good program – we’d just like to see that money start coming back to the dealers,” he said.
President Obama and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood pledged that dealers will get their money. As of Thursday, more than 457,000 sales worth $1.9 billion had been received. About 40 percent of the claims have been reviewed.
Clark said the news of the program’s wind down spurred additional sales on Friday.
“We’ll probably end it today, then spend Monday getting the paperwork done,” he said. “And let me tell you, we’ve got some real clunkers that I’m happy to get off the road.”
Contact Dennis Seid at (662) 678-1578 or dennis.seid@djournal.com.

Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal