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Cash for clunkers program increasing traffic at local dealerships

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Is this clunker worth $4,500? It could be under the government's cash for clunkers program, which gives a cash credit up to $4,500 on the trade-in value when a new vehicle is purchased.

The cash for clunkers bill, the ambitious plan President Obama has put in place to help spur new car sales, is having the desired effect on local car dealers but some questions do remain.

Most notably, will the dealers get paid?

"We haven't received any money yet," Brandon Johnson, general manager at Tom Denchel Ford in Prosser, said. "That's the fear."

Congress and the Senate approved $1 billion for the program in the beginning but it proved so successful that the funds were quickly used up. Congress and the Senate quickly approved an additional $2 billion for the program and President Obama signed the bill last Friday, ensuring the cash for clunkers program would continue.

There are some rules to be followed. Consumers can only purchase or lease new cars to get a credit of up to $4,500 for their trade-in. The trade-in must be no more than 25 years old and the vehicle must be registered and have been insured continuously for the past year. The vehicle must also only get 18 mpg or less.

The program will run until Nov. 1, 2009 or until the funds run out.

The government has issued a 136-page document for car dealers to follow.

"It hasn't been put together as smoothly as it could have been," Johnson said of the cash for clunkers bill.

But, he said, the bill has spurred a noticeable difference in the number of new car seekers.

"It has improved traffic," Johnson said. "It's gotten the public thinking."

Brandon Christensen, general manager at Mid-Valley Chrysler Dodge Jeep in Grandview, also has noticed an uptick in traffic.

"There has been an amazing amount of traffic," he said. "We've sold a lot of new cars off this idea. It's been exciting."

Christensen didn't have an exact number of cars sold through the program, noting he was still waiting for the government to approve some of the sales. But, he added, the program has provided a surge in demand for new cars, something the plan was designed to do.

He added that his dealership has seen traffic double.

To help bring in even more traffic Christensen said Chrysler has come up with its own twist on the cash for clunkers program to go along with the government's.

Known as the double cash program, Chrysler is matching the government program up to $4,500 in the form of a rebate. That means if a customer receives a $4,500 discount from the government for their trade-in, then Chrysler will match that. Some consumers could end up knocking off $9,000 from the price of a new Chrysler, Dodge or Jeep vehicle.

"This has been neat for us," Christensen said. "There is a lot of excitement."

Johnson said the program overall has been positive for Tom Denchel Ford as well, but is waiting for the smoke to clear before claiming success.

"If the program works like it's supposed to...we get some gas guzzlers off the road, increase our stock of scrap metal and the dealers all get paid, it will be a very good thing," he said.

- Corey Russell can be contacted at

509-837-4500, or email

CRussell@DailySunNews.com

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