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Posted on Fri, Jul 31, 2009 : 10:30 a.m.

Ann Arbor area auto dealers cope with 'Cash for Clunkers' confusion

By Paula Gardner

The federal "Cash for Clunkers" program hit a roadblock Thursday, when the program was suspended at midnight after officials said the $1 billion allotment may have run dry.

Then this morning, officials said the program may continue through today.

So what are auto dealers to do amid the confusion? They're trying to sort it out, too.

"I’ve got customers calling me saying, 'What are you going to do?'" said George Davis, general manager of Howard Cooper Import Center in Ann Arbor.

His answer: "We don’t know."

The problem, local dealers say, is that the program to encourage drivers to turn in older cars for new, higher-mileage models - with up to a $4,500 cash incentive - accomplished its goal of generating high consumer interest.

So sales floors have been busy, while - behind the scenes - dealers are left to sort out 130-plus pages of guidelines and mixed messages about what to do and how they'll be reimbursed.

"I'm with a customer right now who's here for the 'Clunker' program," said Myles Kearney, a manager at Gene Butman Ford In Ypsilanti.

He could only talk for a minute this morning, due to that activity. And he said his staff started the day amid the same confusion as Davis.

"We've been told to continue as we have for the rest of the week," Kearney said.

Davis described the program as a fiasco, especially since consumers may not understand the lack of clarity provided to dealers about the program. The suspension of the program Thursday during a busy sales period was especially problematic.

Davis said this morning that he's been advised by company attorneys to halt delivery of vehicles in the "Clunker" program, because they fear the $4,500 payment per vehicle won't be paid to dealers.

Yet, he said, "I'm hoping that any moment something comes through and changes."


Jake C

Sun, Aug 2, 2009 : 5:27 p.m.

uawisok: Why bash this program as being about "import junk"? Many Fords are built in Mexico, and many Mazdas are built right here in Michigan. If you want to bitch about the "race to the bottom", maybe you should look at what Chrysler has been producing for the last decade instead of Toyota. "Macabre": There's nothing in this program that encourages people to take on unsustainable debt. That's between the consumer and their bank. This appeals just as fairly to someone who is paying for their new car in cold hard cash, as someone who might finance a new car for 3-5 years. Matt: As a matter of fact, no you won't get $4,500 for a car that only has a working steering wheel. Cars must be in a drivable condition and have been continuously registered AND insurance for the previous year. Anyone who was planning on dragging an uninsured heap of trash that was sitting in their back yard for the last few years will not be eligible.

Matt Sussman

Fri, Jul 31, 2009 : 9:38 p.m.

Will I get $4,500 for my car? It's just a steering wheel. Everything else rusted off.


Fri, Jul 31, 2009 : 4:42 p.m.

And we want to trust our health care to these federal government bureaucrats? They couldn't even get a $1Billion car program right. Scary.

Macabre Sunset

Fri, Jul 31, 2009 : 12:54 p.m.

Decades from now, in economics classrooms across the country, the Cash for Clunkers program will be illustrated as the hallmark of the long and disastrous response to the real estate bubble burst of the '00s. "Hey, Barack, let's spend billions to help people accumulate even more personal debt." "Great idea. This way, we can introduce stimulus for people who don't quite need it now, but will when we're finished with them."

Scott Orwig

Fri, Jul 31, 2009 : 12:02 p.m.

It sounds like an (at least) equally valid interpretation of the facts of this article would be that the program is a runaway success, and that dealers are not willing to read the manual to get the free money. How can the manager of the Import Center call this a "fiasco" when customers are calling and the sales floor is busy? How can he complain about "lack of clarity" when they have been given 130 pages of guidelines? Isn't the real story here that the "Cash for Clunkers" program, which some in congress tried to kill, has been a major hit with consumers and is helping dealers sell cars?


Fri, Jul 31, 2009 : 11:35 a.m.

I can't believe my tax money is used for people to buy import junk....the race to the bottom continues


Fri, Jul 31, 2009 : 11:09 a.m.

this program deserves to be criticized because it didn't last and such good efforts are not good enough