'Cash for clunkers' increases Columbia car sales

Sunday, August 2, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 9:03 a.m. CDT, Sunday, August 2, 2009
Gary Ball hands the title to his old pickup truck to sales associate Brad Kennon of Bob McCosh Chevrolet in Columbia. Ball is participating in the federal "cash for clunkers" program and will receive a credit of up to $4,500 toward a new car by bringing in the old vehicle.

COLUMBIA — Columbia residents are flocking to area car dealerships to take advantage of the highly popular “cash for clunkers” program, even amid worries that funding for the program is almost depleted.  

Under the CARS program, officially known as Car Allowance Rebate System, the federal government gives car buyers $3,500 to $4,500 toward the purchase of a new, more fuel-efficient vehicle in exchange for their old one. By law, the old vehicles must be sold to salvage yards and scrapped. 


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Stuart Head, owner of Head Motor Co. in Columbia, said he has seen a huge increase in sales since the program was announced in July.

“We’ve probably had one of our best Julys ever because of this,” Head said.

Head said he had sold four vehicles through the program before midday on Saturday, and business has been at a steady pace since the program started.

To qualify for the program, buyers must trade in a car that is less than 25 years old and gets 18 miles per gallon or less, and the new car they purchase must get at least 10 miles per gallon more than their old one.  

Bob McCosh, of Bob McCosh Chevrolet, said the program has not only stimulated business but is helping create a safer driving environment for motorists.

“It’s taking older vehicles that aren’t necessarily safe off the road, and putting safer, more fuel-efficient vehicles on the road,” McCosh said. “It’s a good deal on both sides.”

Head said the program has helped drive business in other ways, too. Since the program was instated, dealerships have experienced an increase in traffic, and even customers whose clunkers do not qualify for the rebate have been buying cars anyway, he said.  

“If it wasn’t for ‘cash for clunkers,’ I probably wouldn’t have come to buy a car,” said Jimmy Heiner, whose ‘93 Subaru legacy didn’t qualify for a rebate but who ended up buying a 2006 Chevy Silverado.

Heiner and his wife, Amanda, said they were interested in buying a new American car, but because the gas mileage on their old car was too high to qualify, they had to settle for a used one.  

Due to the popularity of the program, there were concerns that its initial $1 billion allocation was close to running out after only the first week. The Associated Press reported that U.S. Department of Transportation officials were considering suspending the program as early as Friday. In response to these concerns, the House rushed an additional $2 billion dollars to fund the program on Friday, but it has yet to be approved by the Senate.

Head said he wasn’t surprised that the money ran out so fast, as consumers have shown great interest in the program since it was announced.

“I did the math and it comes out to about 13 cars per dealer that can be funded, and we sold that the first day,” he said.

McCosh said his dealership has about 50 "cash for clunkers" deals on the table, some that have been closed and some that have not. He said he has not yet received any money from the federal government honoring those rebates, but said he is confident that the government will hold up its end of the bargain.

Louis Janssen, a Columbia resident, said the news that funding for the program was dwindling spurred him to buy a new car more quickly than he would have, in order to take advantage of the deal before the money ran out. He also said he was not considering buying a new car before the program was announced.  

Although the program has been driving sales throughout Columbia, not all dealers are thrilled with the way it has been administered.  

Chris Ehase, general sales manager for Joe Machens Ford, Lincoln and Mercury, said the “cash for clunkers” Web site, set up by the government, is not reliable and the program has been “a hassle” for him since it started.

“It’s too complicated, takes too much time, and there’s too much paperwork,” Ehase said.

Ehase also said he thinks the program should have been planned better and there should have been more communication between government officials and car dealers.

Despite Ehase’s complaints, he said that this month his dealership has sold about 40 more cars than it normally does.

Tim Popejoy, another “cash for clunkers” consumer and Columbia resident, said his only complaint about the program is that dealers are less likely to bargain with car buyers since there is already a $3,500 to $4,500 rebate.

Mark Kitch, a salesman at Bob McCosh Chevrolet, said that though the program has generated mixed emotions, it has been good for the industry and he hopes it continues.

“There are a lot of people on the fence, and hopefully this will help them get back into buying mode,” he said.

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John Schultz August 2, 2009 | 12:25 a.m.

What an utterly ridiculous program and a waste of our tax dollars. Thank you, Washington D.C.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro August 2, 2009 | 12:53 a.m.

John: I agree. It is inappropriate for Obama to allow a subsidy to the dealerships for all gasoline powered vehicles.
I would sooner the government provide some tax incentives to people who purchase hybrid or all electric vehicles and promote technological advances for such research and development.
I wonder if this program helps Australian Falcon FG sales, down under.
Those Aussies need some help too and Obama might get some brownie points overseas as well for this purchasing incentive. Brownie points seem to be all that matters, nowadays.
G'day mate.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr August 2, 2009 | 4:38 a.m.

Ya let's not get all of those old gas guzzling,smog belching,falling apart,rust bucket,out of date old clunkers off the road way and give others a chance at more fuel,mile and maintenance efficient vehicles.


And how many of us posting/reading here in the past have complained at one time or another about that dam old slow clunker not going fast enough or rattling down the roadway?

(Report Comment)
John Schultz August 2, 2009 | 11:14 a.m.

Chuck, the government setting a floor of $4500 for any car will price the poor out of cheaper vehicles that, while not the greatest looking or best-performing, would at least get them around.. If all of the $1000 beaters were taken out of the market and disabled/crushed, do you then propose giving cash to the poor to buy a car? Also how many people driving those beaters out of need can afford a new car payment, which is a requirement for this plan?

Is there any problem you don't think government can solve?

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr August 2, 2009 | 1:49 p.m.

John Schultz I really do not see your ugly sister sitting at the back of the ball room political party formulating any thing better of an idea in the national media so it makes more sense to go with those who are trying to dance than those sitting it out in the back of the ball room crying about it.

Quote of the day: Do you know the difference between a Citizen and a Politician?
The Citizen works for change and Politicians cry about that change coming.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro August 2, 2009 | 2:15 p.m.

Just yesterday I watched a television advertisement for this program and it encouraged viewers to "recycle" their older cars by participating in this "up to $4500 trade-in" program.
I believe the term "recycle" was misleading as it's my understanding that even if the vehicle being "traded-in" is road worthy or repairable it will become nothing more then scrap. If these cars were given to nonprofit agencies where volunteer car mechanics could be recruited to bring these vehicles up-to-par and then donated to families designated as "hardship cases" I could see this as a worthier cause. The way the program was set up, minimizes opportunity and focuses only on profit for car dealerships using the ploy of "better gas mileage" to justify the wasted tax dollar.
Getting true junkers and clunkers, that overly pollute, wouldn't be a bad idea. This program wasn't designed to do that. Encouraging new vehicle technology and affordable "other then gas powered cars" wouldn't be a bad idea. This program wasn't designed to do that.
It is designed as a "buy a brand spanking new car" stimulus. Neither one of the guys in the above photo are the big profiteers in this venture. The power play that Obama has moved in on the American Auto industry is my big concern.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking August 2, 2009 | 3:25 p.m.

I have a "clunker". It's a 20 year old Metro/Swift, and while it runs perfectly, is not a museum piece as far as it's looks.

I couldn't trade it in under this program, because no car available today gets 5 mpg better mileage.

I find that more disturbing than this program. I think I'll keep it. It may be the last car I ever need.


(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro August 2, 2009 | 5:14 p.m.

("Recipe for getting 99.7 mpg from a Geo Metro...")

(Report Comment)
John Schultz August 2, 2009 | 7:01 p.m.

Chuck, you are certainly the grumpy old curmudgeon who has to gripe at the world. As people become more cost-conscious and environmentally-aware, the car companies have produced vehicles with better mileage and lower emissions, as well as hybrid vehicles. I'm guessing you don't care about tax dollars being wasted since you don't pay any, but I'm hopping mad about this stupid, wasteful program and the politicians who voted for it.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz August 2, 2009 | 7:03 p.m.

One more thing Chuck, if this government program that you are so enamoured of was really all that and a bag of chips, don't you think it would have offered money for all those gas-guzzling V8-powered land barges from the 70s and 80s?

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr August 2, 2009 | 8:31 p.m.

John Schultz I pay taxes with every single purchase I make whether it be online or in this city and county. So your statement of I do not pay taxes is not only ignorant but just plain shows how uneducated you truly are.

In the 70's and 80's nobody really gave a dam so you can actually blame our parents and grandparents for the screw ups we have now we all must deal with John.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz August 2, 2009 | 10:51 p.m.

So let's see, Chuck dodged the alleged problem with 70s and 80s cars and the tax implications of the CARS program (paid for with federal tax money aka debt and not your Columbia/state sales taxes). But the government is there to solve it all in Chuck's world. Can you remind us, did you vote for that liberal progressive tree-hugging candidate, the one with the political philosophy you have been bagging on the past couple days?

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr August 3, 2009 | 4:49 a.m.

>>> So let's see, Chuck dodged the alleged problem with 70s and 80s cars <<<

Read again dipstick:

>>> In the 70's and 80's nobody really gave a dam so you can actually blame our parents and grandparents for the screw ups we have now we all must deal with John. <<<

Yes I did vote for Obama due to voting for McCain would have meant the end for us all especially if McCain died and Palin was in the President slot.

Better to know what your going to get than to get bent over by the Redumblicans.

I noticed your guy did not win so what is your excuse now?

(Report Comment)
John Schultz August 3, 2009 | 10:05 a.m.

I wasn't referring to who you want to blame for those old land barges, rather that the CARS program did nothing to get those and other dinosaurs off the road. You think it was a great program, and I'm saying it is another failed government program that didn't consider the full spectrum of clunkers.

There's hardly a bit of substantive difference between Obama and McCain, or Bush for that matter. All three agree on roughly 90% of the issues and all are in favor of bigger government. My guy lost, but I can sleep at night and know that I didn't screw my kids' futures over.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr August 3, 2009 | 3:44 p.m.

John Schultz well that is just life isn't it and if your party's candidate would have had a better platform maybe he might of had a chance. Even if he did win he would have had to face he Dems and Repubs who would have stone walled his arse anyway then we would still be all screwed up.

Either way we are all going to pay for the sins of our fore fathers and their fore fathers in how those old coots voted and allowed all of this to get to the points we are at now.

Face it John all of our parents and grandparents screwed up.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro August 21, 2009 | 2:10 p.m.

("Auto Dealers Paid for Just 2 Percent of 'Clunkers' Claims, Congressman Says
Rep. Joe Sestak says only 2 percent of claims have been paid and that four of every five applications have been "rejected for minor oversight.")

("Mom and Pop used-car dealers are feeling the crunch as the old Caravans and Cherokees that provide their livelihood get traded in and banished to junkyards under Cash for Clunkers. By some estimates, three of every five of the used cars turned in for government rebates would have ended up on used car lots or resold for parts.

While the Clunkers program helped push sales of new cars in July to the highest level in nearly a year, sales of used cars have taken a beating.

"We're struggling and a lot of us are going out of business," said James Dameron, sales manager at Chase Motors in Richmond, where sales are down 30 percent.")
source and more:

(Report Comment)

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