Buyers Trading In Gas Guzzlers For Fuel Sippers

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In the four weeks since the Cash for Clunkers program went into effect, the program has delivered on what the president and Congress hoped it would — drive up auto sales.

At one local dealer, car sales jumped 30 percent since the program began.

Chapman Auto Center general manager Buck Rogers said 12 clunkers have been traded in for new, fuel-efficient models.

“It has been a great idea,” Rogers said. “We are collecting all kinds of good (sales) taxes for the economy.”

Shad LeBlanc with Steve Coury Ford in Star Valley said the program was really hot when it first came out, with an additional five vehicles sold over normal sales. Since then, sales have cooled down.

Even with interest waning, the program is still bringing in curious buyers who weren’t even considering buying a new car. Customer traffic at Chapman tripled since the end of July and doubled at Steve Coury.

Buyers who came in and discovered they were not eligible for the program have bought cars anyway, the dealers said.

Most are taking advantage of Chrysler’s $4,500 rebate, which is offered on top of the government’s offer for qualified buyers.

For buyers who do not qualify, Chapman is offering $3,500 or $4,500 savings on most 2009 new Chrysler, Dodge or Jeep vehicles.

“A lot of people came in assuming they would get the rebate but they did not qualify,” he said, “but they would buy outside the clunkers (program) anyway.”

Buyers are trading in large sport utilities and four-door sedans and switching over to “fuel sippers,” Rogers said.

“Most are small SUVs and compact sedans. We sold a couple of trucks, but most were compacts.”

With sales on the upswing, Rogers is excited to see how things will pan out when the program expires Monday, Aug. 24. He is even more excited to receive his rebate check from the government.

Currently, dealerships are passing the $4,500 savings onto the consumer, collecting the clunkers and waiting patiently for the government to reimburse them.

Nationally only about 2 percent of dealers have been paid for the clunkers collected.

It takes the government at least 15 to 30 days to process a mountain of paperwork for each vehicle.

Consumers can learn more about the CARS program at www.cars.gov or by calling the U.S. Department of Transportation’s information hotline at (866) CAR-7891.

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