Clunker Payment Backlog Affecting Tulsa Area Businesses

Monday, August 24th 2009, 4:35 pm
By: News On 6

By Jeffrey Smith, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- As the Cash For Clunker checks start to roll in, many auto dealerships around Tulsa are still waiting.  The payment backlog is having a ripple effect on other businesses.

Bristow auto dealer Henry Primeaux told The News On 6 he's spent more than $800,000 for clunkers and still hasn't seen a dime from the federal government. 

Dealership hang-ups are making a dent in the bottom lines of all sorts of auto businesses.

Clunkers from Cash for Clunkers are a rare sight at salvage yards.  Salvage operator Norm Latham has just received his fourth one in four weeks.

"We're in a situation where they're not wanting to let them go until they've been paid, and I certainly don't blame them," said Norm Latham of Economy Salvage Yard.

Latham admits he's stressed out over the program.  He's contracted to receive almost 300 clunker cars.  So, he's waiting for 296 more.

"Dealers aren't wanting to let them go, they haven't been paid, they're all nervous," said Norm Latham of Economy Salvage Yard.

It's also been a headache for tow truck drivers.

"I was expecting it to already be busy. I already put on extra trucks for it to be busy. And, it's not yet," said tow truck driver Chris Ashwood.

The dealers won't disable the engines until they receive a check from the government. Tow truck drivers can't pick up the clunkers until the engines are disabled. And, salvage yards like this can't sell the scrap parts until they get the clunkers from the tow truck drivers. It has become one big waiting game.

"You find out the program is going to happen, you try to get prepared for it. And then, you're prepared for it, and now we're waiting on the government," said tow truck driver Chris Ashwood.

Until auto dealers have their checks in-hand, Latham says all he can do is work the phones and wait for the cars.

He knows they're coming.  He just doesn't know when.

"When they start releasing the cars, we won't be able to keep up," said Norm Latham of Economy Salvage Yard.

All of the businesses believe the money is coming, but their concern is that there is no promise on when.

Meanwhile, Latham has rented a vacant lot near Highway 75 for all the clunkers.  And right now, that lot is going unused.

08/24/2009 Related Story: Final Hours For Cash For Clunkers Program