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Triangle dealers waiting for 'Clunkers' money

Some Triangle dealerships say while the Cash for Clunkers program boosted sales, it also had its setbacks.

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CARY, N.C. — The Transportation Department extended the deadline Monday for auto dealers to submit their Cash for Clunkers deals, giving them more time to make sure they get repaid under the popular $3 billion government rebate program. Some Triangle dealerships say while the program boosted sales, it also had its setbacks.

“We sold a lot of cars. The program was successful, and the only part that is a downfall is getting the money from the government. It’s been very slow and frustrating,” said Bill McNamara, with Auto Park Honda-Cary.

McNamara said the paperwork, along with the wait for government reimbursement, had been a hindrance for the 2100 Auto Park Blvd. dealership.

“One customer came in and wanted to know what do I have to do to qualify for the Cash for Clunkers. We told him, ‘You need to have patience because the paperwork takes a lot of time,’” McNamara said.

The extra paperwork was particularly time consuming since it had to fit the federal guidelines exactly or it was rejected, McNamara said. A reject meant dealers wouldn’t get reimbursed for the $3,500 to $4,500 knocked off the price of a new car.

“The customer doesn't really have a big of risk because they've got their new car and we don't have our money yet,” McNamara said.

Computer problems have plagued the Clunkers program, as it proved far more popular than government officials expected. A rush of filings also bombarded the online system earlier this month when it appeared the first $1 billion Congress set aside would run out just days after sales began. Transportation officials later expanded its computer network capacity and tripled the number of staffers working on the program.

Of Auto Park Honda's roughly 160 Cash for Clunkers deals, the dealership has been paid only for seven, McNamara said. The numbers are even lower for Capital Ford of Raleigh.

“It’s close to a little over $1 million,” Jerry Mosley, with Capital Ford of Raleigh, said of the government money the dealership is waiting on.

The 4900 Capital Blvd. dealership has made about 400 deals under the program, but has only received government reimbursement for two, Mosley said.

“We know we're going to get it. It's just that it came so hard and so fast, and I don't think anybody realized that the public was going to be so excited about participating in the program,” Mosley said.

Dealers now have until noon Tuesday to submit the necessary paperwork, after the deadline was pushed back from 8 p.m. Monday. All sales under the program ended Monday evening.

The change came after government computers set up to handle the filings buckled under a flood of dealers trying to send in their sales agreements at the last minute. Under the original plan, those deals that weren't submitted on time wouldn't be repaid, leaving many dealers fearful that they would be left on the hook for clunker sales they made.

Clunkers that without government reimbursement aren't worth much to the dealerships, according to Mosley.

“Hopefully we can get rid of them (clunkers) one day,” Mosley said.


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