Even though the the U.S. Senate voted this week to approve additional funding for the "Cash for Clunkers" vehicle trade-in program,some Bay Area dealerships are worried about getting reimbursed for the trade-ins and the difficulty in using the government's Website for the program.
The program, officially called the Car Allowance Rebate System, has attracted great interest from consumers across the country. It gives a rebate of up to $4,500 toward a new car purchase for customers who turn in vehicles that are less than 25 years old.
Mike Ribeiro, sales director of San Francisco Honda, said employees at his dealership were having trouble using the Website, which was working slowly at times, if at all. Even Thursday, a search on www.cars.gov says no dealerships are registered for the program in San Francisco.
But Jim Bailey, general manager of Dublin Honda, said the Website has been working a lot better since then. However, he also worried about the reimbursement process.
"Everyone's very concerned," Bailey said. "I have a lot of contacts across the country and I don't know anybody that's been paid yet."
More than 184,000 deals had been made through the program nationwide as of last Wednesday for a value of $775.2 million, including more than $39.9 million in California, according to figures released by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Brian Maas, director of government affairs for the California New Car Dealers Association, said the program has a double benefit for the country.
"It got consumers up off the couch and into dealerships looking to purchase new vehicles" and also gets rid of "some of the most polluting vehicles on the road," Maas said.
The Department of Transportation estimates that there has been a 61 percent increase in the average miles per gallon of the new vehicles purchased compared to the vehicles that were traded in.
Some Bay Area dealerships have sold more than 100 new vehicles through the program, such as San Francisco Toyota, which has sold more than 125, according to company president John Horton.