Cash for Clunkers sales get started


POSTED: Saturday, July 25, 2009

Friday morning sales meetings at car dealerships around Hawaii geared up sales, finance and administrative staffs for the expected crush of Cash for Clunkers customers, since official rules for the U.S. government CARS program were posted online yesterday morning.

One Windward Oahu salesman posted on Twitter after his meeting that the program would be “;good for consumers but a nitemare (sic) for me!”;

The rule-posting cleared the way for dealers to sell new cars to consumers who trade in older models—and for them to register for reimbursements of the $3,500 or $4,500 credits consumers will receive toward their purchases.

The law Congress approved to stimulate auto sales took effect July 1, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration encouraged dealers to wait for publication of the rules to begin making transactions.

Additionally, NHTSA's computer servers apparently could not handle the volume of dealers trying to register for the program yesterday, according to a Wall Street Journal report. It quoted a NHTSA spokesman who said the servers did not crash, but they were “;at capacity.”; Dealers were not permitted to register prior to the rule-posting.

Gary Scheuring, general sales manager at Honda Windward, also could not get into the system, “;but we are accommodating customers,”; he said.

After their own sales meeting, activity at the dealership was “;hectic,”; he said.

As of 2:30 p.m. yesterday, three Cash for Clunkers deals had been made with customers still in the showroom and on the lot.

His repeated unsuccessful efforts to register yesterday were not much of a worry.

“;I suspect every dealer in the country”; is trying to register, said Scheuring. “;That's the source of the problem, so I'm not too concerned.”;





        The Car Allowance Rebate System, or CARS, offers telephone and online information.

» CARS hot line: (866) 227-7891


» TTY: (800) 424-9153


» Hours: Mondays through Fridays, 2 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, 4 a.m. to 2 p.m.


» CARS Web site: www.cars.gov


» EPA fuel economy rating site: www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/findacar.htm


» The deal: Buyers receive $3,500 or $4,500 toward the purchase of a new vehicle—in addition to manufacturer, dealer and additional government incentives, rebates, credits and deductions.


The dealer portion of the Cash for Clunkers Web site says a list of new vehicles eligible for the program is posted on the site, but no such list could be found yesterday, though shoppers are researching potential purchases and dealers were girding to be slammed with customers over the weekend.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency fuel-economy Web site can be used to calculate the eligibility of a “;clunker,”; as well as the eligibility of a new vehicle a shopper is considering. The EPA site is the ultimate arbiter of combined mpg ratings to determine eligibility for the CARS program.

Honda Windward received a list of eligible vehicles from the manufacturer, and all but one model sold at the dealership make the cut, Scheuring said.

After about two weeks of cemeterylike conditions at his dealerships, veteran Hawaii dealer Joe Nicolai is not a fan of Cash for Clunkers.

“;I'm not really much in favor of government intervention in the free marketplace,”; he said. “;The taxpayers are having to pay this $4,500 rebate. ... (It's) just more taxpayer money being thrown down the drain.”;

The CARS program is “;another government boondoggle, and ... it's not really going to stimulate this industry very much, if at all.

“;It might sell a few cars, but I rather doubt it,”; he said.

Nicolai decried the “;difficult”; terms and conditions as creating “;a very, very narrow opportunity to sell any cars,”; though his dealerships will participate. Probably half the cars that sell under Cash for Clunkers “;would have sold anyway,”; he said.

“;Of course all dealers are desperate to make even one sale, so in that light it might make 'em a little happier, but they'll need a hell of a lot more than that to stay in business.”;

The CARS rules set detailed requirements, such as one that forces scrap yards to crush or shred turned-in cars within six months. They also describe the information auto dealers must present to the government to get reimbursed for the “;clunkers.”;

The Hawaii scrap yards are posted at www.cars.gov as well.


Bloomberg News contributed to this report.