Auto dealers getting ‘much-needed boost’ from campaign to get clunkers off road
By Steve Huffman
Brad Wood said business at Gerry Wood Honda was hopping Friday like the glory days of the auto industry.
Well, maybe hopping even a tad more
“We’re delivering 18 cars today,” Wood said. “It’s one of our best days ever.”
Friday was the first day that the government offered a $4,500 credit to anyone trading in their old clunker for a new fuel-efficient vehicle. Congress approved the “Car Allowance Rebate System,” or “CARS,” program last month to boost auto sales and attempt to retire some inefficient cars and trucks.
“Cash for Clunkers” is the campaign’s more recognized ó though unofficial ó name.
Friday was the first day the campaign took effect, though a number of dealers have been working deals through the program for weeks.
There are a handful of stipulations involved, but both dealers and consumers seem thrilled about the opportunity to trade aged gas hogs for new cars that sip fuel rather than guzzle it.
“I’ve talked to a lot of the dealers in town and they all feel this is going to give us a much-needed boost,” Wood said. “We’re excited.”
So was Chris May. He drove from Winston-Salem on Friday to trade his Chrysler Town & Country for a 2009 Honda Fit at Gerry Wood Honda.
“It’s been pretty well worn in,” May said of his Chrysler. “It was time for a new car.”
He said his Town & Country got about 17 miles to the gallon while the CRV averages 23 miles per gallon. May said he figures he’ll be saving between $500 and $600 a year on gas. Combine it with the $4,500 “Cash for Clunkers” allowance and he said he feels he’s getting a whale of a deal.
“I did a lot of research,” May said of his study of the “Cash for Clunkers” campaign. “I was pretty clear on what I could get.”
To qualify, consumers must turn in a vehicle that is no more than 25 years old and has a combined city and highway fuel economy rating of no more than 18 miles per gallon as calculated by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The old vehicle must be drivable and it must have been insured by and registered to the same person for at least the past year, preventing shoppers from buying an old car and flipping it to get a discount on a new vehicle. The credit cannot be applied toward a used vehicle or toward new vehicles that cost more than $45,000.
To get the full $4,500 credit, consumers must buy either a new truck or sport utility vehicle that is rated at least five miles per gallon higher than the scrapped vehicle or a passenger car that is rated at least 10 miles per gallon higher than the scrapped vehicle. Because the old vehicle will be destroyed, the credit is given instead of the regular trade-in value ó not in addition to it ó though some dealers might compensate customers for the vehicle’s scrap value.
If you own a car bought after 1984 that gets 18 miles to the gallon or less, you’re good to go. For a trade with a car that gets 22 mpg, you get $3,500. If the new car is 10 mpg higher in fuel efficiency, consumers get the full $4,500.
Wood took a stroll Friday afternoon through a back lot filled with numerous cars traded as part of the “Cash for Clunkers” campaign. When someone noted that several of the cars didn’t look half bad, Wood pointed toward one and responded, “This one looks better than the first car I ever drove.”
He said certain parts from the cars can be stripped and resold, though the engines and transmissions must be crushed per government regulations.
Wood said he’d seen people buy new Honda Fits through the program for as little as $9,900.
“They don’t have to be loaded,” Wood said of the cars sold through the program. “They’re good cars that will last a long time. For a lot of people, this is a great deal.”
Just a stone’s throw up Jake Alexander Boulevard, at Team Chevrolet-Cadillac, Kristin Haynes, general sales manager, said the “Cash for Clunkers” campaign has let some people buy a new Chevrolet Aveo for half its retail price. She said she’d seen people buy the small Chevy for as little as $6,681.
Haynes said one of the reasons for that price slash is the fact that General Motors is giving all consumers supplier pricing, which she said is even lower than the invoice price that dealers pay.
“A lot of people are pulling out of negative equity because of this deal,” Haynes said of “Cash for Clunkers.” “It’s generating a lot of excitement. It has been a big day for us.”