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Dealers wait for money

BY SAMANTHA HONKEN | AUGUST 24, 2009 7:05 AM

A small-town Iowa car dealership sold 20 brand-new cars in 44 days.

Without the government-instituted Cash for Clunkers program, the West Branch Ford dealership likely would have seen half the business it did since the program began on July 1, said sales manager Jeff Sullivan.

The initiative, which encouraged customers to swap gas guzzlers for more environmentally-friendly models, ends today at 8 p.m.

While business was boosted by the program — officially called the Car Allowance Rebate System — local dealers said they aren’t necessarily sad to see it go.

On top of the hours of paperwork required for each purchase, one major factor still weighs on Sullivan’s mind: He’s short $80,000.

The government is still processing all 20 of his car sales, and Sullivan said he was sure the money would come eventually.

A local Toyota-Scion dealership has seen similar results. Senior Salesman Derrius Loveless said Toyota’s Camry, Corolla, and Prius were popular with shoppers looking to cash in on the program, but the dealership has not yet seen full government reimbursement.

“The process is not as easy [for salesmen] as most people believe,” Loveless said, noting the government’s meticulous regulations.

The website to access the application form was frequently down, Sullivan said, making it particularly difficult because the form for each car sold took more than an hour to fill out.

Loveless agreed the time-demanding forms made work harder for Toyota-Scion dealership employees over the past several weeks.

And similar stories are true across the country. Although the program officially ends tonight, dealerships nationwide have elected to end the program early on their lots.

West Branch Ford had to do just that, stopping its rebate options last week.

“We just didn’t want to run the risk of being too close to the deadline and lose the rebate opportunity,” Sullivan said.

Loveless and his companions at Toyota-Scion also chose to stop participating before tonight’s deadline. He did not have exact numbers as of Sunday night, but like most dealerships, Loveless said the higher fuel efficiency vehicles had been “extremely successful.”

So far, $1.9 billion has been put toward clunker rebates. The remainder of the $3 billion budgeted by the government will go toward reimbursing claims that have not yet been filled and that continue to arrive until 8 p.m. today.


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