While the talk continues in the U.S. Senate over whether to extend more funding to the "Cash for Clunkers" program, a car dealer in the state’s largest metro area says the administrative problems continue to plague the plan.
The program pays up to $4,500 when someone turns in a car to buy a new one that gets better gas mileage. Dan Boettcher, general manager of Stew Hansen’s Dodge in metro Des Moines, says it has been difficult to apply for reimbursement from the government after a deal is made for a new car.
Boetcher says, "We’ve found that working around the clock it’s very difficult to process the deals with the websites, because I think the websites have been overwhelmed by the response as well." He says they’ve kept people up until three or four in the morning entering deals. The company has three other dealerships in its group and Boettcher says they’ve sold 170 cars under the program.
Boettcher says many of the deals have been sent back by the government for "minor" details. "The execution of that is somewhat complicated," Boettcher says, "so that’s been a little frustrating with the execution of the program. So we are as dealers a little bit nervous."
He says of the 170 deals the dealerships have done, there are only three that have been declared eligible for payment by the government. Boettcher says the business is good, but the bureaucratic delays don’t help.
"Just as this one dealership we have 50 deals in process right now..somewhere in the neighborhood of $200,000, which hurts our cash flow," Boettcher says. He says cash flow issues have been the problem for all businesses in this economic in the last 12 months, and remain a "huge concern."
Iowa Congressman Leonard Boswell, a Democrat from Des Moines, set up the visit to the dealership under the original assumption that the program would last into the fall. Boswell says he was surprised when the funding ran out in about one week.
Boswell says it caught everyone off guard, but it was a good feeling. Now Boswell says they have to address the concerns over delays in approving the deals. Boswell says he will place a call to the director of transportation to ask him to "do what he can to smooth it up and keep it going."
Boswell says he will also be talking with his colleagues in the U.S. Senate to encourage them to authorize more money for the program.
Senator Grassley talks about the program in a related story found here.