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Clunkers records $2.88 billion in rebates

Wed, 26 Aug 2009 00:00:00 -0700

Dealers submitted a total of 690,114 cash-for-clunkers deals for $2.88 billion in rebates by last night's 8 p.m. deadline, coming in under the $3 billion budget for the popular program, the U.S. Transportation Department said today.

The potential cost of the four-week program precludes for now the need for the Obama administration to ask Congress for more money.

But the figures do not include dealer reapplications that might be submitted after deadline, Transportation spokeswoman Jill Zuckman said.

"We gave you the total figure of applications submitted, period," she said in an e-mail to Automotive News.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said last week that rejected filings could be resubmitted after the claims deadline.

The National Automobile Dealers Association has estimated that the rejection rate was as high as 80 percent at one time, though department officials later said that rate had been "dramatically" reduced.

Today's figures show that dealers filed only $229 million in claims during the final 36 hours of the program, substantially below the rate at which they were submitted between the mornings of Friday, Aug. 21, and Mon., Aug. 24.

During the weekend period, dealers entered $611 million in rebate applications.

Both intervals were marked by computer outages on the Transportation Department's Web site for dealers, slowing the submission of applications and prompting two extensions of the original claims deadline.

A number of dealers also opted out of the program before the Aug. 24 deadline for completing deals because of the bottlenecks in electronic filing.

LaHood hailed the program today.

"American consumers and workers were the clear winners thanks to the cash for clunkers program," he said in a statement.

Transportation plans to add to the public and private staff that already includes 2,000 employees who are processing dealer applications for rebates, the statement said.

"The cash for clunkers program will only be a success if dealers are paid in a timely manner," NADA spokesman Bailey Wood said.

The agency had only 350 employees, or about one-sixth of the current total, at the end of the week beginning Aug. 10.

By Neil Roland- Automotive News