'Cash for clunkers' confusion

By Morgan Chesky - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - email

LONGVIEW, TX (KLTV) - If you try to take advantage of the government's "cash for clunkers" program, you may be met with some confusion. The "cash for clunkers" program would give you up to a $4,500 tax credit if you traded in your gas guzzling vehicle for one that gets better mileage. But, Thursday night, the Department of Transportation announced they were suspending the wildly popular program, because it was running out of money. Friday, the House rushed a vote to drop another $2 billion into the program. The Senate will vote on it next week. But, as the government assures you the program will last at least through the weekend, East Texas car dealerships are not so sure.

It's the billion dollar budget that may or may not have bottomed out. What's the problem? The ones with the cars didn't get the call.

"[We have not had an] official phone call, email, fax, telegram [or] anything," said John Ray, with Lively Cadillac and GMC. "We've heard nothing from anybody."

At Lively in Longview, John Ray made an executive decision.

"As far as I'm concerned, it was suspended because I'm not going to put customers or this store in jeopardy waiting on the United States government to figure out what's going on," said Ray.

The problem behind the program, Ray says, lies in the process. 16,000 dealers are currently approved, but 4,000-5,000 dealers who haven't been approved are participating in the program. All franchised dealers break down close to 12 trades a dealer. A number many have already exceeded.

"They're taking the "cash for clunkers" so the government has no real idea within any degree of certainty how many units they're talking about and once the billion's gone, the billion's gone," said Ray.

On the program's website, cars.gov, a dollar amount was posted, which was supposed to show dealers how much of the billion dollar budget was left.

"Their website has crashed more than its been up so it's very difficult to get any correct information," said Ray.

...problems resulting in a backlog of 20,000 transactions. Showing us the program's website, Lively explained how each transaction sometimes took up to an hour, then crashing unexpectedly, leaving dealers with no one to answer their questions or concerns.

"[After] 34 years at this store, I can tell you this is the first time we've gotten involved with a government program and I do not feel good about it and this is not going to have a happy ending," said Ray.

It's an ending lawmakers hope to stop with more spending. The dealers we spoke with say they're putting the program on hold until they're sure more money is pushed into the program. So, before you go car shopping this weekend, you might want to give your dealership a call.

©2009 KLTV. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.