WASHINGTON — Car dealers have a few more hours to get reimbursed for their Cash for Clunkers deals after the government extended the deadline for filing applications for the $3 billion government incentives into Tuesday evening.
All sales under the program ended Monday evening. But after already pushing back the deadline to submit records for the car rebate deals to noon Tuesday, the Transportation Department said the deadline would be extended to 8 p.m. EDT as the Web site set up to handle the program was taxed by dealers rushing to submit last-minute claims.
Before the extension, all the paperwork was due to be submitted by Monday night, but an influx of submissions shut down the government's computer filing system temporarily. That raised concern among dealers that they wouldn't be repaid for the incentives of $3,500 or $4,500 per vehicle and prompted them to push for an extension.
The government agreed to give dealers more time to provide the proper documentation and have ramped up staff to handle the onrush. Transportation officials said the computer system was up and running on Tuesday afternoon.
The National Automobile Dealers Association recommended that dealers e-mail claims to the Clunkers Web site, CARS.gov, to create a backup paper record in case they couldn't get their deals in on time through the online submission process. NADA also wants the government to extend the filing deadline to Aug. 31.
Alex Perdikis, executive vice president of the Washington-area Koons Automotive Companies dealer chain, said Koons employees weren't able to access the claims system for about 45 minutes Tuesday afternoon. That meant that five deals from one of Koons' Toyota dealerships still couldn't be filed.
"It's a waiting game every time you put a deal in. You cross your fingers and hope the site is up," Perdikis said.
Through early Tuesday, dealers had submitted 665,000 vouchers totaling $2.77 billion. Many dealerships have worked overnight in recent days to submit each trade-in vehicle's 13-page reimbursement application, including the title, proof of registration and proof of insurance.
Cash for Clunkers has been wildly successful in spurring new-car sales since it began in late July. Consumers rushed to take advantage of rebates taken off the price of new cars in return for trading in older, less fuel-efficient vehicles.
But dealers so far have only received a fraction of the reimbursement funds they are owed. Through last Thursday, the most recent data available, the Transportation Department had reviewed and processed more than 150,000 reimbursement applications and approved just $140 million in payments to dealers. At the time, the department had processed about 30 percent of all the applications it had received.