Car sales generated by the so-called Cash for Clunkers program have been so robust that some area dealers say the $1 billion allocated by the federal government will be exhausted well before the program is scheduled to end on Nov. 1.
John Becerra, sales manager at Mathews Ford in Oregon, said he was certain the initial funding would soon be gone.
“That will happen, absolutely,” he said Wednesday, adding buyers flocked to the Navarre Avenue dealership when the Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS) officially began July 24.
He estimated 40-50 vehicles were sold under the program at the dealership in just the first few days.
Three models, the Escape, Fusion, and Focus, have been especially popular with consumers bringing in prospective trade-in vehicles.
Becerra, who’s been at Mathews since 1992, described inventory on the lot as “very low, very light.”
“We do have some coming in but we have been extremely busy,” he said.
Terry Paul, owner of Genoa Ford and Genoa Chevrolet, also said it was likely funding wouldn’t last until November.
“My guess is that it will run out before then,” he said. “The first days went very well.”
At the Chevy dealership, buyers were primarily making deals on the Cobalt, Malibu, Impala, and Silverado models.
“Our inventory is depleted. It’s a good thing we have more on the way,” Paul said.
Across Route 51 at Genoa Ford, buyers were keying on the Focus, Fusion, and Escape models, with some even purchasing the F-150 pickup truck.
Paul also described inventory on the Ford lot as of last Wednesday as “very low” but said he was expecting a delivery of eight new vehicles that day.
Under CARS, consumers receive a $3,500 or $4,500 government-funded discount from a dealer when they trade in their old vehicle and purchase or lease a new, qualifying vehicle. To be eligible, the trade-in vehicle must have been manufactured less than 25 years before the date it is traded in, have a combined city/highway average of 18 miles per gallon or less, be in drivable condition, and be continuously insured and registered to the same owner for a full year before the trade-in date.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates the program could take about 250,000 less fuel efficient cars and trucks off the road.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said almost 16,000 U.S. auto franchises were participating in the trade-in program.
The NHTSA announced last week it was planning a national television and Internet advertising campaign to educate the public about CARS.
More promotion may not be needed, however, if sales continue on the same pace as when the program started.
Greg Dunn, general sales manager at Dunn Chevy Buick, also said he expects funding to be gone within a couple of weeks.
CARS buyers at Dunn’s have focused on three Chevrolet models, the Cobalt, HHR, and Silverado, he said.
“It’s been pretty steady the last two weeks,” he said. The dealership was taking orders for new cars while waiting for the rules to be officially announced.
Dunn said the program’s rules are very cumbersome for dealers, adding there are about 18 forms that must be filed with the government for every sales transaction.
More than 2,000 questions were raised during a National Automobile Dealers Association/NHTSA Webinar on the CARS program held July 27.