TUPELO – With a $2 billion infusion, the “cash for clunkers” program is expected to rack up another 500,000 new car sales in the next few weeks.
But whether the money will last until Labor Day, as the program’s sponsors have said, remains to be seen. The first $1 billion, slated to last until Nov. 1, was burned up in a week.
Auto dealers across the country have been making so many deals that some of them have run into another problem – not having enough vehicles available.
At Carlock Toyota in Tupelo, General Manager Mike McLellan said his lot was looking empty after having completed 27 clunker deals.
“We’ve got 43 vehicles on the ground and I’ve got another 130 on order,” he said. “We can’t get them fast enough.”
Toyota had three of the 10 top-selling vehicles that customers were trading for: the Corolla, Camry and Prius.
McClellan said the program provided an extra boost to his dealership.
“We sold 70 vehicles in July, including the 27 through the program, so it was still a really good month,” he said.
At Larry Clark Buick Chevy Cadillac Pontiac GMC in Amory, cash for clunkers has been a hit, too.
“It seems to have lost some of its luster, but it’s been a good program,” said Clark. “I’d say about 75 percent of the cars we’ve taken in probably wouldn’t have happened without it.”
The Chevy Cobalt is among the top 10 cars being bought with the program, but Clark said customers also are getting midsized SUVs and trucks, too.
But while their sales have picked up, McClellan and Clark are waiting for their share of the money.
A waiting game
Under the program, customers are given incentives of up to $4,500 by the dealers. The dealers do the paperwork and submit it to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, and once it’s approved, the agency reimburses dealers.
But many, including McClellan and Clark, are still waiting.
Submitting the paperwork and getting it processed “has gotten better,” McClellan said. “But we haven’t gotten paid yet.”
Said Clark: “We’ve made a few deals, but we haven’t gotten anything either.”
The NHTSA says dealers’ reimbursements should be processed within 10 days.
Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal