Aug 272009
Authors: Aldo Svaldi The Denver Post

Colorado car and truck buyers claimed $37.7 million of the $3 billion in incentives offered under the just- ended Cash for Clunkers program, the U.S. Department of Transportation reported Wednesday.

The program lifted car sales nationally by 690,114 between July 26 and Aug. 24, with Colorado getting a boost of about 8,900 vehicles, said Tim Jackson, president of the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association.

“It was wildly popular and wildly successful,” Jackson said. “You can look at this and say that it worked. It did what it was supposed to do.”

To put the additional sales in perspective, new car registrations in Colorado averaged 7,737 a month in the first half of the year, Jackson said.

Plus, car dealers estimate that for every two sales under the program, one more occurred among buyers drawn into showrooms who didn’t use the incentives, Jackson said.

The program directly contributed about $9 million in additional state and local sales-tax revenues, according to estimates from Mark Couch, spokesman for the Colorado Department of Revenue.

But the program has generated two sets of new worries. Short term, already-stretched dealers are waiting anxiously for the government to pay them back. Long term, there are concerns that the incentives may have cannibalized future sales.

The deadline for car dealers to submit reimbursement paperwork for the federal car incentives ended Tuesday night, a day after the government halted new sales under the program.

Dealers received extra time to submit records as the government’s website set up to handle the program struggled to accommodate dealers’ rush to submit last-minute claims.

With hundreds of thousands of consumers having driven off in new fuel-efficient vehicles since the program began in late July, many car dealers worry about further delays in getting repaid for the incentives of $3,500 or $4,500 per vehicle despite assurances from the Obama administration.

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