‘Cash For Clunkers’ May Spur Car Sales

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If you’ve been holding on to that beloved gas guzzling SUV for the last 20 years, now may be the time to trade it in for a new, fuel-efficient vehicle.

Over the weekend, the Obama administration’s $1 billion Car Allowance Rebate System went into effect. This means if you’ve been driving the same car for at least a year and it gets 18 miles per gallon or less you are eligible for at least a $3,500 rebate, depending on the type of vehicle you trade in and the difference in fuel economy between that car and the new one you buy or lease.

Over at Chapman Auto Center, owner Buck Rogers said he and his staff are excited for the new program, especially since Chrysler is coupling the government’s rebate with its own, sweetening the deal for buyers.

For example, if you trade in a Chevy Suburban for a new Chevy Malibu, you could potentially get a total savings up to $9,000.

Steve Coury Ford in Star Valley has built the rebate into its advertising already. Factory, dealer and federal rebates on selected models range from $10,000 to $17,000 at Coury Ford.

“The ‘Cash for Clunkers’ program is a great way to get old, gas-guzzling vehicles off the road,” Rogers said. “We found a way to make it better by offering the same savings even if a trade-in doesn’t meet the official ‘clunker’ definition.”

If you bring your vehicle in and it does not meet the government’s requirements, most dealerships are still offering their own rebate.

Chapman is offering $3,500 or $4,500 savings on most 2009 new Chrysler, Dodge or Jeep vehicles. Customers are not required to trade-in a “clunker” to benefit from the savings.

“Many drivers want a fuel-efficient new vehicle,” Rogers said. “But, some customers are discovering their old vehicle doesn’t guzzle enough gas to meet the government’s ‘clunker’ guidelines.”

So far, Rogers said no one has taken advantage of the new program, but it has aroused a lot of interest from potential buyers.

“A lot of people are interested, but they do not necessarily qualify because some older cars got good gas mileage,” he said. “There are so many stipulations. I think it will benefit some people, but for the majority, I am not sure.”

Rogers sees the rebate perfect for the parent who wants to buy their child a new car.

Overall, for the year, Rogers said sales have been “OK” at the dealership considering the recession.

“It is nothing great,” he said.

SUVs and trucks remain the hot sellers, mainly because drivers in Rim Country need large vehicles to tow with and get over the big hills.

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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