UPDATE- Cash for Clunkers program may get additional money

July 31: Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur's office has received word that the Cash for Clunkers program might get an additional $2 billion. The issue will be brought up in the U.S. House of Representatives this afternoon.

By Jonathan Walsh - bio | email

Posted by Dave Dykema - email

(WTOL) - Are the brakes being put on the Cash for Clunkers program?

Congressional officials say the government plans to suspend the Cash for Clunkers program because of concerns it could quickly use up the $1 billion in rebates for new car purchases.

Through Wednesday nearly 23,000 vehicles had been purchased, and nearly $96 million spent.

Dealers have been raising concerns about big backlogs in the system.

Some local dealerships tell News 11 government red tape and late-in-the-day changes have been a lot to handle.

And now the question: is your vehicle still eligible?

As people fill local car dealerships trying to take advantage of the Cash for Clunkers program, some are finding doors closing on them.

At the last minute the EPA altered the fuel requirements which created some car confusion.

"A lot of cars were eligible and there were some changes, then they weren't eligible," says John Becerra, General Sales Manager of Mathews Ford in Oregon.

Dozens of vehicles were either added or taken off the list. Mathews Ford is still in the program, but some dealers are actually opting out of the program.

On the one hand you have the National Highway Transportation Administration managing the Cash for Clunkers program. On the other hand you have the EPA determining fuel standards. And some say these recent problems show that the government's right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing.

"The rules have changed three times since last Friday," says Joe Mehling, Dave White Chevrolet General Manager.

Mehling tells News 11 they spent 8 hours on Friday registering to be a part of the program.

"Today we have yet to have a rebate be officially given to us in the respect that they're still under review," says Mehling.

Dealerships have to follow a 126-page manual to a "T" to get the money promised from the federal government.

If car shops have had concerns there's a long wait for answers.

"The dealer 800 number can take you as long as 90 minutes to get through to ask a question," says Mehling. "And you may or may not get the answer."

With so many variables and changes happening, Mehling says his dealership has 35 to 40 waiting to go through. But he's being very cautious.

"We are waiting to know for sure that the money is coming to us."

However, at the same time of apprehension and problems with the program, dealerships say Cash for Clunkers is bringing in a ton of customers.

"It's doing what it's supposed to do," says Becerra. "We're selling a lot of cars. We're depleting our inventory."

"In theory, it's a phenomenal program," says Mehling. "In practice we're still yet to find out."

Wtol.com will keep you up to date on any changes to the program. Just click on the Big Red Box.

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