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Processing time and technical difficulties have had auto dealers wondering, "but where's the cash?" The Cash for Clunkers phenomenon, formally known as the CARS program, ended for consumers last month-- but only 20% of the rebate checks have been mailed. With $2.8 billion left to be distributed, there is plenty going on behind the scenes to make good on the program.
The Obama Administration announced this week that it hopes to process the majority of the rebate applications by the end of the month, on or before September 30th. That means distributing rebates to dealers who fronted rebates to consumers. An estimated 700,000 cars were sold under the CARS program and the federal government is processing rebates for nearly 600,000 cars.
Why the delay? First off, the Department of Transportation (DOT) would remind dealers that the program started just months ago, at the end of July, and ended just weeks ago, on August 24th. And this after pulling the plug on the program earlier only to restart it after Congress approved an additional $2 billion. Additionally, the DOT notes that many applications submitted were not fully complete, causing further back-and-forth to retrieve the needed information.
On the flip side, dealers have been anticipating the checks in the mail to support their ongoing operations. Multiplying rebate amounts of up to $4500 by tens, hundreds, or thousands of cars can add up to substantial numbers. Dealers have also been frustrated by slow approvals and technical glitches that have slowed the funding process.
How does the Department of Transportation plan to meet its September 30th goal?