Car dealers find 'clunkers' program, well, a bit clunky

Car dealers say it hasn't taken long to develop a love-hate relationship with the federal government's week-old "cash for clunkers" program.

And as they face a big sales weekend under the off-again, on-again car sales stimulus program, they love the prospect of the business it will attract, but hate the paperwork.

"There's no doubt that the program is good for the consumer, that it's good for the economy, that it's good for fuel efficiency, but it's scary for the dealers," said Jeff Beaty, the general sales manager of Korum Automotive Group, in Pullayup, Wash.

The program, which offers consumers up to $4,500 for their old fuel-guzzling vehicle when they trade up to a new fuel-saving vehicle, has been a runaway success.

As this weekend approached, the federal government, which funded the program, considered ending it as applications for the clunker funds approached the $1 billion limit authorized by Congress. Originally the government thought those funds would last until Nov. 1.

But Friday the House approved another $2 billion for the program, and the White House assured the public that the Senate would concur.

Most South Sound car dealers say they'll continue doing deals under the program, though they might be more cautious about ensuring that all the paperwork is in order.

At Jet Chevrolet in Federal Way, Wash., general manager Don Thompson said the dealership has sold a dozen cars under the program, and the enhanced trade-in program has generated new traffic in the showroom that's been lacking in recent months.

But the downside, he said, was the documentation.

"I think we counted 18 separate documents that we have to send in to the government," he said.

And with the huge interest, government computers and phone lines are overwhelmed.


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