Status of 'cash for clunkers' confuses car dealers, buyers

The White House has told car dealers there is money available in the "cash for clunkers" program to honor discounts on trade-ins for new-vehicle purchases completed Friday.

But whether the program will remain in effect beyond Friday isn't clear. A Transportation Department spokesman had no information about when the program might end.

On Friday, the House approved an additional $2 billion for the program.

The Senate was not scheduled to vote on Friday but lawmakers hoped to win approval for additional funding next week.

Mike Jackson, chairman of Fort Lauderdale's AutoNation, the nation's largest automotive retailer, viewed the $1 billion available under "cash for clunkers" program as the "first tranche" of money set aside to stimulate car sales.

"It would be a pity if it ended today," Jackson said. "(But) I believe it wouldn't be an end today, that it would be a pause and that it would resume when they're able to organize additional funding. The stimulus program is simply working too well, with the quality of traffic being too great, to just let it end."

AutoNation reported a big jump in traffic as a result of the stimulus program.

Owners of old cars and trucks can receive a discount of $3,500 or $4,500 toward the purchase of a new, more fuel efficient vehicle under the program. The program was slated to run through Nov. 1, or until the money was depleted.

The National Automobile Dealers Association warned its members that until it receives further guidance on the availability of funding, dealers may run the risk of not being reimbursed for "clunker" deals they accept after Friday.


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