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Auto dealers hope more cash flows for clunkers
House OKs $2 billion to extend popular vehicle trade-in program
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Milton Martin Honda General Manager Butch Miller marks windshields Friday of cars traded in to the dealership as part of the government’s CARS, or “Cash for Clunkers” program. The dealership has taken in more than a dozen vehicles that will be scrapped as part of the federal program.

Cash for Clunkers

Details on the federal Car Allowance Rebate System

What qualifies: Cars and trucks must be 1984 models or newer and get 18 miles per gallon or less in combined highway/city rating (based on the "Estimated New EPA MPG" ratings available at www.fuel
economy.gov.) Vehicle needs to be drivable, insured and licensed for at least a year.

The deal: For passenger cars, consumers can get $3,500 if the new vehicle gets at least 4 mpg more than the trade-in, $4,500 if the new vehicle gets at least 10 mpg more. For SUVs, pickups or minivans, owners can get a $3,500 rebate if the new vehicle gets at least 2 mpg more than the old old, $4,500 if at least 5 mpg more. Large work trucks weighing at least 6,000 pounds can qualify for rebates of $3,500 to $4,500.

Your old car? Trade-in vehicles are scrapped. Dealers are required to use a government-approved salvage facility for the vehicle disposal.

To take part: Go to your local car dealer; visit the Web site, www.cars.gov; or call the program’s hot line, 866-CAR-7891.

Local car dealers say they are glad to hear that the government-funded "cash for clunkers" program likely will get a second life.

The U.S. House voted overwhelmingly Friday to pump $2 billion into the popular car purchase program, heeding calls from
consumers eager to keep taking advantage of thousands of dollars in trade-in incentives.

House members approved the measure 316-109 within hours of learning from Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood that the program was running out of money.

The program is designed to help the economy and the environment by spurring new car sales. Owners of older cars and trucks can receive $3,500 or $4,500 in federal subsidies toward new, more fuel-efficient vehicles, in exchange for scrapping their gas-guzzlers.

Thursday, less than a week after the Car Allowance Rebate System, or "cash for clunkers," began, car dealers learned that the $1 billion program, originally expected to run through Nov. 1, was almost out of money.

"I had a feeling it’d run out by the end of August," said Tim Hayes, general manager of Hayes Chrysler Dodge in Gainesville. "I didn’t think it’d run out the first week."

Jim Hardman, owner of Hardman Pontiac Buick GMC in Gainesville, said he thinks the program is a good one that he was confident would find support in Congress.

"I feel certain the program’s going to continue," Hardman said.

Many dealerships have seen interest and sales skyrocket over the last two weeks as people came in hoping to trade their old "clunkers" to buy new, fuel-efficient cars.

Hardman said he has sold 15 cars that qualified for the program since Monday.

"We’ve taken some very old, inefficient, high mileage vehicles off the road," Hardman said.

Butch Miller, general manager of Milton Martin Honda in Gainesville, said many people who wouldn’t otherwise buy a new car are coming out because of the federal savings. He said he has seen "a flurry of activity" in June and July that was heightened by the program.

"We’ve had a number of customers who had vehicles they’d wanted to trade for some time," Miller said. "It’s just a great time to buy; there’s incentives across the board."

Miller said with as much interest as there has been in the first week, he would encourage people to act as quickly as possible.

"I’m afraid the consumer who does not act is going to be left out," Miller said. "It’s like a game of musical chairs."

Wayne Alexander, general manager of Hardy Chevrolet in Gainesville, said he thinks the program is helping a lot of people.

"I feel like this is one time where the money is actually coming back to the consumer," Alexander said. "So far it’s been very positive. We’ve been very busy."

Though the program has many benefits, many dealers have found that its popularity has led to delays, in addition to the extra paperwork that is required to qualify.

With thousands of dealerships across the country registered for the program, using the program’s Web site, www.cars.gov, takes hours in many cases.

"To submit that very first transaction took a total of six hours on the computer," Alexander said.

President Barack Obama said he was encouraged by the House action to keep alive a program that had "succeeded well beyond our expectations."

Senate action is likely next week, ensuring the program won’ be affected by the sudden shortage of cash.

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