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Clunker clog-up?

Traded in "clunkers" sit at the Tony Basso car dealership as they wait to be scrapped.
A traded in clunker is marked to be headed for the scrap yard.

Sun Advocate reporter

Cash for Clunkers might be over, but for dealerships, the paper work has just begun. Since Aug. 24, the government has been paying dealerships for their collected clunkers, but, as widely reported, the payments have been a bit slow in coming.

"Actually, we've been okay. They've (the government) paid on a little over a third of them, but it's been about a three-week delay," said Danny Mower, of the Price Auto Group.

Much of the payment problem has stemmed from logistical issues which plagued the entire program since its first days. First, it ran out of money, which was replenished. But toward the end, the government's clunker website went down. Eventually, the site was restored. But with the massive demand and strain on communications, the government has been slow responding to dealerships and the public.

Additionally, Cash for Clunkers proved to be a complex undertaking with specific requirements for which cars could and could not be traded in. Some of the more confusing requirements for vehicles included fine details about vehicles like transmission type, or engine liter sizes. These and other specifics have also made the finalizing details anything but streamlined.

For every clunker processed, it takes a dealership around two hours to fill out the paperwork, which, in terms of time, can be expensive.

"I'm not exaggerating. When it first started, we got put on hold for three hours at a time," said Larry Monson at Tony Basso GM.

As time has gone on, the government has hired more people. As a result, transactions are speeding up in terms of dealership payout, but some larger non-local car dealers are still experiencing difficulties.

However, the program has been hailed a success, because so many people were able to afford new cars. But dealerships and manufacturers really didn't see the benefits as much as the public.

"This was probably one of the best stimulus packages ever-- for the people," said Monson. "It was the consumers who benefited most. We really didn't see a gross increase (in profits)."

With only four pending clunkers remaining at Tony Basso, Monson said that the company has been sending the finalized vehicles to Price Metal's scrap yard where the engines will be sized up and the bodies shredded for recycling. Price Auto Group has undertaken similar action. Both dealers agreed that the program was successful despite the confusion that surrounded it.

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