Tulsa Dealerships Hope For 'Cash For Clunkers' Extension

Tuesday, August 4th 2009, 5:34 pm
By: News On 6

By Dan Bewley and Scott Thompson, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- The U.S. Senate will vote to extend the popular Cash for Clunkers program before going home on Friday. Approval of a House-passed measure would send a $2 billion extension to the White House.

Dealers are hoping the program gets the green light later this week. 

More than $664 million in sales have taken place since Cash for Clunkers started a week ago. Dealers say it has helped jump-start their businesses.

"We call it clunker headquarters," said Yvonne Hovell with Dodge Chrysler Jeep of Tulsa

Yvonne Hovell is hard at work on the business end of cash for clunkers. Her dealership, Dodge Chrysler Jeep of Tulsa, has seen a major upswing in business since the government program started on July 27th.

"It's encouraged the public and it's been an incentive for the car dealers," said Yvonne Hovell.

This past weekend was the best the dealership has seen all year. Nearly 80% of their business since the program started has involved a clunker.

Cash for Clunkers is a federal program allowing car owners to get up to a $4,500 credit by trading in their old models for new cars that achieve significantly higher gas mileage.

Dealers say even those who learn their car doesn't qualify are not walking away empty handed.

"Just saw a lot of people come in and buy a car on the spot," said Sam Tater with Dodge Chrysler Jeep of Tulsa.

The same story is being told just down the street at Don Carlton Honda where six cars are waiting to be delivered to their new owners.

The dealership has sold 84 cars since last week, all thanks to the clunkers program.

But the program could be on thin ice. Many Republicans say the government has failed to provide enough data about how well the initial funding has worked and should wait until the fall to provide more.

Dealers say the program has given their industry new life and hope congress does whatever needs to happen to keep it going.

"It's been very, very overwhelming, very busy. We don't know when it's going to end and this time we're hoping the Senate and the Congress will approve it because it's great for the customers, it's great for business right now," said Sami Khalaf with Don Carlton Honda.

Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe was against the Cash for Clunkers program from the onset and still is.

"If you do the math, you realize just how bad this is. Research has shown that spending $1 billion of taxpayer money resulted in 50,000 more car sales over the 200,000 sales that would have occurred under normal conditions. That means taxpayers spent $20,000 for each additional car sale," said Sen. Jim Inhofe.

The House passed a continuation of the program before breaking for summer recess. Any changes made by the Senate on Friday would effectively interrupt the rebate program until Congress returns to work in September.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says most people are buying smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles under the program. 

The top sellers are:

1. Ford Focus
2. Toyota Corolla
3. Honda Civic
4. Toyota Prius
5. Toyota Camry
6. Ford Escape