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Local dealers report sales from Cash for Clunkers program

By Staff | Aug 27, 2009

The government-sponsored Cash for Clunkers program ended last week, and while it didn’t generate a big spike in sales locally, both M.J. McGuire’s and D&S Motors were relatively pleased with its effects.

“Overall, it was good from the standpoint it brought more customers to our lot and we got a number of phone calls inquiring about (the program),’ said Dan Lagein, McGuire’s manager, who said the dealership processed about 15 sales through the program.

Lagein believes the dealer could have sold more if not for the limited volume on the lot, and of course the short time the program was available. Cash for Clunkers, which offered as much as $4,500 off the price of a new vehicle when trading in older models, was offered for one month.

Brian Diebold at D&S Motors said they sold around a half-dozen cars.

“We probably would have sold a few more, but we were cautious about it because of the uncertainties over whether there would be government money available,’ he said. “We went back and forth about whether we were going to offer it.”

A shortage of vehicles tied to the GM restructuring was also a factor in fewer sales .

Diebold said what was frustrating was the fact that the program created a lot of questions from the dealers and not a lot of quick answers.

“If they (the government) had said up front they would guarantee the money for the sales, then more dealers would have been willing to push it more,’ he said.

Many dealers like D&S took a cautious approach, while others decided to crank out sales and hope there would be enough appropriated money in the program to pay them back.

There were also delays in processing the applications and confusion by some buyers as to what those qualifications were.

Diebold added the program had more success in metropolitan areas where buyers were interested in trading in trucks for smaller cars which provide far more fuel efficiency. “Up here, we just don’t have as many people looking at trading in pickups for smaller cars,’ he said.

Nevertheless, Diebold said it did spark interest at the dealership, and in time they may get some sales as a result of it.

All in all, both Diebold and Lagein said customers were good to work with and understood when they did not qualify, based on insurance or the type of vehicle they were looking to trade in.

Asked if he would like to see the program come back someday, Diebold said, “I’d go for that, but hopefully they would get the details worked out do a better job of informing the dealers and customers about it,’ he said.

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