Dealers find snags in Cash for Clunkers

Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Michael Young, of Aiken, holding his son Cody, 2, traded in his 1995 Chevrolet Tahoe (rear) with 220,000 miles for a 2009 Chrysler PT Cruiser at Triangle Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep in Graniteville.

Local dealers say the "cash for clunkers" program had its challenges.

"The paperwork outweighs the benefits to the dealers," said Richard Pendarvis, the owner of Pendarvis Chevrolet in Edgefield, S.C. "A lot of time is involved in doing one. I could sell six cars in what it takes to do one of these."

"People are getting good deals. There's a lot more thousand dollar cars on the road than I thought. My concern going in was how many people were driving around that had a vehicle insured, tagged and titled for a year that would be able to buy a new vehicle," he said.

Mr. Pendarvis and other dealers were concerned about the program's funding.

"We really have no way of knowing how much money is left," said Brian Winters, the general manager at Gerald Jones Honda in Martinez.

The government requires dealerships to crush the car in order to get reimbursed. If the money runs out before they can submit the paperwork, they're "on the hook for $4,500," Mr. Winters said. "I'm sure there will be dealers left holding the bag."

He's also frustrated because he was on hold for four hours trying to get assistance, which he never received. He can't register deals because his information is listed incorrectly in the system, he said.

The dealership had sold 15 cars under the program so far, Mr. Winters said.

Mike Watson, the general manager at Sunbelt Nissan, is also concerned about the lag time, saying it takes several days to complete a transaction. Also, the rules keep changing, he said.

"It's a well-intentioned bill, but a lot of moving parts. I have not had any assurances that this dealership will get money on any of the cars to this point. The system is that backed up," Mr. Watson said.

Despite the benefits for consumers, it "doesn't help the most needy in that transportation loop," such as low-income consumers or the unemployed, he said.

Still, the customers like it.

Lynn Brisson, the owner of Triangle Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep, said demand has been overwhelming.

"They're coming and calling like crazy. It's probably giving us some business we would not have had. It's getting some people in that maybe thought they couldn't buy," she said.

One happy customer is Michael Young of Aiken, who paid $8,500 for a new car.

He said he landed the deal by turning in his 1995 Chevrolet Tahoe through the federal program. He and his family drove off the lot at Triangle Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep in Graniteville in a Chrysler PT Cruiser on Wednesday.

He said he received $9,000 in incentives for a car worth $1,500. Cash for clunkers offered a $4,500 rebate, which Chrysler matched.

"I couldn't believe it. We had no intention of purchasing a new car. It's hard to find a really quality used car for $8,500, and we got something brand new. It was amazing," Mr. Young said.

Reach LaTina Emerson at (706) 823-3227 or latina.emerson@augustachronicle.com.

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