South Carolina car dealers divided over clunker program

BLUFFTON, S.C. _ Car dealers in Beaufort County appear divided on the merits of the federal incentive program for new car buyers known as "Cash for Clunkers."

While advocates say the program has spurred sales, critics question if it's worth the hassle or mounds of paperwork.

Even some dealers who are happily participating in the program said it isn't having a dramatic impact on the area's new-car market.

At the Vaden Automotive Group's General Motors dealership in Beaufort, new car sales manager Trey Smith credited the program for about 10 sales.

Even though the program requires extra work on the part of dealers, he said several buyers indicated in surveys that they wouldn't have bought when they did without a federal rebate of up to $4,500.

"It did help spur people to make a decision," Smith said. "Ultimately, in the end, it's probably worthwhile."

At O.C. Welch Ford Lincoln Mercury, the dealership's namesake said Thursday afternoon that he'd completed 34 deals under the program and had another 61 waiting to be processed.

Welch said those results might be deceiving, however, because some consumers delayed purchases to find out if Uncle Sam would implement the program.

Most of the cars being sold under the program would probably have been sold at other times without it, Welch said.

"They were just sitting there, waiting for the government to throw the deal out there," he said. "Really, it was a month of business done in one week."

Even though the program has stimulated the market, he said, he called it poorly thought out and said he worries about the burden the it will place on taxpayers for a short-lived benefit.

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