As Cash for Clunkers deadline nears, car dealers scramble

Sacramento-area car dealerships bustled this weekend with people trying to trade their old cars for new ones in the final hours of the Cash for Clunkers program.

The $3 billion federal program — formally called the Car Allowance Rebate System — offered car buyers who trade in gas guzzlers for more fuel-efficient cars rebates of $3,500 and $4,500.

Sunday was particularly busy as many local car dealers opted to end the program to ensure they could process the extensive paperwork required by Monday's 5 p.m. deadline.

That was the case at Nissan of Elk Grove where Sunday was the final day customers could get the Cash for Clunkers deal. The showroom was full of people buying cars, and phones rang nonstop.

Claudia and Jose Luis Garcia of Sacramento were nostalgic about saying goodbye to their 9-year-old Ford F-150, but happy to take home a new Nissan Sentra. They had come by the dealership earlier in the week but took a few days to shop around before returning to make a deal.

John Paul Fletcher of Arnold was nearly giddy about getting rid of his 1986 Ford Bronco. Its rear window was shattered, the seat belt hung out of the front door and cobwebs filled the floor area on the passenger side. "I hope I'll never have to shift again," he said, before finding a salesperson to show him a few vans.

At 5 o'clock, salespeople were turning new customers away, pointing to a sign on the door saying it had ended the program.

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