Auto dealers wait patiently for clunkers money

By Jamel Major - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - People are still lining up to take advantage of the Cash for Clunkers program, but many dealers say they have nothing to show for it.

Like many car dealers participating in the program, Kent Ritchie of Lander's Ford is still waiting to be reimbursed by the federal government.

"It's a concern," Ritchie said Tuesday. "It's something where you just have to watch your pennies; watch what you spend.  It might affect us in other areas, such as advertising or the amount of cars we buy."

The Cash for Clunkers program offers $3,500 to $4,500 to consumers who scrap their gas guzzlers for a new, fuel efficient vehicle.  Dealers front the money for the cash incentive, and the government promises to reimburse them.

"We've done 120 Cash for Clunker deals," Ritchie said. "That's over a half a million dollars.  We've been paid on one deal.  That was $3,500."

The government says the delays are partly to blame on dealers who submit incomplete claims.  Last week, federal officials told auto associations the government was assigning 1,000 extra workers to process claims.

"There are over 350,000 of these applications already in the pipeline," Ritchie said. "We understand that only 225 people are processing these. You do the math. That's just more than they can handle."

Meanwhile, dealers like Ritchie, who can't afford to lose business by not participating in the program are trying to be patient, hoping the government will come through on its promise.

"We're always optimistic," Ritchie said.  "We're assuming they'll get the kinks worked out in Washington and we'll start getting paid."

Dealers are hoping to begin receiving those reimbursement checks by the time the Clash for Clunkers program ends in September.

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