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Clunkers | Backlog of dealer claims
Jason Stein,
Wisconsin State Journal

With rust in their wheel wells, lots of miles on their odometers and a junk yard possibly in their future, the final candidates for the federal cash for clunkers program pulled into car lots Saturday.

The last several participating Madison dealerships are pulling out of the program by this evening to make sure they have enough time to send in applications ahead of Monday's federal deadline.

"We did know we needed a new car at some point," said Jamie Quanbeck of Madison. "This is helping us make the decision."

Quanbeck, shopping with her husband, Andrew, at Smart Motors on Odana Road, said the couple could receive $4,500 for their 2000 Jeep Cherokee, a 16-miles-per-gallon gasoline hog the couple figures is worth $2,000 at best.

The popular $3 billion federal program, which offers consumers up to $4,500 toward the purchase of a new car if they turn in one with worse gas mileage, is scheduled to end at 7 p.m. Monday.

Dealers have complained that the federal government's Web site can take 45 minutes at best to process an application under the clunkers program and has often frozen in recent days.

At Russ Darrow, Jon and Joni Weaver of Madison were looking at the possibility of trading in their rusted 1992 Chevy pickup with some 200,000 miles on it. Joni Weaver said the couple wouldn't have been car shopping Saturday if not for the federal program.

"It's been super busy," said Jon Garcia, sales manager for Russ Darrow Kia on Odana, who was struggling to help customers gather paperwork such as car titles and lien releases before the deadline.

Smart Motors general sales manager T.J. Johnson said business was brisk Saturday but not chaotic. Since July 27, the dealership has done about 250 sales through the program, with the clunkers ranging from one manure-spattered vehicle and a car with no working reverse gear to a few more upscale Cadillacs and Jeeps that might have fetched a respectable trade-in value.

But all of them must be destroyed under the rules of the federal program, having their engines deliberately ruined and receiving an "X of death" across their windshields from the marker of Smart's compliance director and self-proclaimed "Mayor of Clunkerville," Jim Neustadt.

Johnson said that so far, Smart has had only 17 clunker deals fully approved by the federal government and has yet to be paid for any of them. 



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