MARYSVILLE — Local dealers are proceeding with cautious optimism to the overwhelming public response to the government’s Cash for Clunkers program.
The program, which provides consumers with a $3,500 or $4,500 voucher to trade in their gas guzzler for a more fuel-efficient car, was projected to have used up the $1 billion initially set aside by July 30, just eight days after most dealers began accepting trade-ins. But the U.S. House of Representatives voted to extend the program another $2 billion on July 31, leaving the Car Allowance Rebate System in the hands of the Senate.
Although the program’s future is uncertain, Roy Robinson Chevrolet planned to continue taking trade-ins over the weekend.
“Plans for the weekend are to move forward,” said sales manager Gordy Bjorg Jr. “We’re waiting to hear whether they’ll fund with more money.”
Ford announced that their nationwide sales increased 2.3 percent for July, the first increase in over a year. Locally, Cash for Clunkers has been great for sales of cars, new and used, said Marysville Ford sales manager Andre Frazier. The dealership has already sold about 20 to 25 vehicles through the rebate program and is trying to find ways to offer similar discounts to customers coming in the door.
In the meantime, Frazier said, “What I’m doing is taking a look at the vehicles, and some of these vehicles are worth what the rebate is.”
In those cases, he said, Marysville Ford is finding other ways to discount new cars up to the value of the rebate to keep customers happy.
Recent improvements to vehicles’ fuel economy by manufacturers means there are a variety of new qualifying vehicles available at local dealerships.
The Car Allowance Rebate System, also known as Cash for Clunkers, began as a $1 billion government program intended to get cars with poor fuel economy off the roads. Running from July 1 to Nov. 1 or until the funding runs out, consumers may go to participating dealers to trade in their vehicles for a $3,500 or $4,500 credit toward a new car.
Would-be participants must meet several standards to qualify. The trade-in vehicle must be no older than 25 years and have a gas mileage rating of 18 miles per gallon or less. The credit is calculated by the difference in gas mileage between the trade-in car and the new car. On passenger cars, an improvement of four to nine miles per gallon will earn a credit of $3,500. An improvement of 10 miles per gallon or more will earn the consumer a $4,500 credit.
The trade-in vehicle must be in working condition and titled and insured to the consumer for at least one continuous year to be eligible for the program.
Dwayne Lane general manager Brian Frauenholtz said his dealership had been advised by General Motors to honor the program as they expect the additional $2 billion funding to come through.
Like Marysville Ford, Frauenholtz estimated Dwayne Lane has sold about 25 vehicles through Cash for Clunkers. The biggest hurdle to sales, he added, was ensuring that customers’ trade-ins qualified.
“We’ve had some people call or come in and their cars don’t qualify. It’s kind of a bummer,” he said, adding that customers still interested in taking advantage of the program should come in sooner than later. “Well the $1 billion ran out in one week. So it’s probably something they should look at fairly quick.”