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'Clunkers' trade-in program clicks with Alle-Kiski car shoppers

Doug Gulasy
| Thursday, July 30, 2009

The much-awaited program known as "Cash for Clunkers" started this week, and Alle-Kiski Valley auto dealerships already are seeing an impact.

Local auto dealers said customers have come out in full force to trade in their old, gas-guzzling vehicles and receive as much as $4,500 toward the purchase of a new, more fuel-efficient replacement.

"Our biggest concern is that we want to get these (new cars) out on the road and get our claims in as quickly as possible," said Leonard Kalmar, manager of Kalmar Motors in Gilpin. "Because I don't think this (program) is going to last long."

Kalmar Motors already has sold nearly 10 cars through the program since Monday.

Kalmar said that by taking advantage of "Cash for Clunkers," plus manufacturers' deals such as supplier pricing and cashback, customers are saving a lot of money.

"On a (Chevrolet) Silverado, for example, you get $4,000 cash back, plus supplier pricing, plus 'Cash for Clunkers' — you can save almost $10,000," he said.

With so many savings available, dealers expect the $1 billion that funds the program to run out well before the scheduled end date, Nov. 1.

"They're saying (it's enough for) 250,000 vehicles over the whole country — that's not going to be a very long span of sales," said Glenn Harbison, sales manager at Nick Chevrolet-Buick-Pontiac-GMC in Tarentum. "I would say a month at the most."

Harbison said 12 people had already taken advantage of the "Cash for Clunkers" deal at Nick's so far.

But other customers' older cars fell short of the mileage standards needed to qualifyl.

Yvonne Sabattini of Natrona Heights, Harrison hoped to trade in her 2000 Chrysler 300M through the program. However, the car has a fuel rating of 19 mile per gallon — one gallon more than the maximum allowed under the program.

Still, Sabattini said the program is a good deal for consumers.

"I saw some (cars) in the newspaper for $11,000 and $12,000, like the (Chevrolet) Cobalts," she said. "People ought to be out there grabbing them up, especially if you have an older car — an older clunker."

The program's potential impact on the slumping auto industry is harder to define.

While dealers remain hopeful the program will boost struggling auto sales, some national analysts are skeptical about how much it will help.

Automobile Web site Edmunds.com said Americans trade in about 200,000 vehicles that are worth less than $4,500 in any given three-month period."Cash for Clunkers" has a trade-in cap of 250,000 vehicles, which means only about 50,000 more vehicles will be sold than normal.

Still, local dealers believe the program will help them and the industry at large.

"I think it's just drawing interest into purchasing vehicles again, where there was no interest (before)," said Phil Devereaux, owner of Devereaux Chevrolet in Freeport.

Additional Information:

How to participate

To qualify for 'Cash for Clunkers,' vehicles must be a 1985 model or newer, and get 18 miles per gallon or less.

They also must be registered, in drivable condition and insured for at least a year prior to trade-in.

To find out if a vehicle qualifies for the mileage standards, owners can go to a dealership. They can also look online at car manufacturers' Web sites, such as:

letfordrecycleyourride.com

gm.com/cash-for-clunkers

toyota.com/cashforclunkers

Owners can get either a $3,500 or $4,500 rebate on a new vehicle by trading in their 'clunker.' The amount depends on the mileage improvement in the new vehicle.

Consumers can get $3,500 for cars with at least a 4 miles-per-gallon improvement and trucks with at least a 2 mpg improvement. They can get $4,500 for cars with at least a 10 mpg improvement and trucks with at least a 5 mpg improvement.

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