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Local dealers sound off

Local dealers sound off

Posted: Saturday, August 8, 2009 1:32 am

By JOHN BRANNON
Messenger Staff Reporter
The government’s innovative Cash for Clunkers program may be going great guns — pending an additional injection of $2 billion — but the paperwork for each and every deal is extreme.
Simply stated, that’s the collective view of several local auto dealers contacted by The Messenger Thursday afternoon — Terry Petty Chevrolet in Union City, Herman Jenkins Motors Inc. in Union City, Union City Ford and Purchase Ford-Lincoln-Mercury of Mayfield, Ky.
• Terry Petty Chevrolet
Owner Terry Petty said the program has brought traffic to the showroom. Hence, he’s moved several “units” and, all in all, it’s been good for business.
“We have run out of cars,” he said. “We don’t have enough. If I had 10 more people who came in today who qualified, I couldn’t get the cars.”
It’s the word, “qualified,” that keys the mix, he said.
“There’s just too many stipulations that disqualify a lot of people,” Petty said. “The program’s bringing people in, but there’s no doubt it’s over-regulated. Here’s an example. A man has a car he’s owned for 12 years. He’d always had it registered until a few months ago, when he let it lapse. He got it re-registered and he still has it insured. He can prove it was registered for 12 years up to February of this year. But because he hadn’t had it registered for 12 consecutive months, he was disqualified from the program.”
• Herman Jenkins Motors
“We’ve done about 20 clunker deals. We have them ready to be hauled off,” said co-owner Lynn Jenkins. “There is a lot of paperwork associated with each deal. There’s a lot of forms to be sent in and a lot of waiting to get your money from the government.”
Are some of the government-mandated stipulations nit picking?
“Some of it is,” he said. “You’ve got to have proper documentation. Cross all ‘t’s and dot all ‘i’s. Fortunately, I haven’t had to hire additional help (to handle the paperwork). We have staff here, they’re getting it done.
“But all in all, the program has been great for people to take advantage of; if the government’s going to offer, you ought to take them up on it. It’s brought a lot of traffic in the door.”
• Union City Ford
“It’s working great,” said sales manager Jason Hicks. “It’s brought a lot of traffic in. And we are running out of inventory.”
Hicks said the program has had a spill over effect — some who are initially interested in the cash for clunkers “switch over” and buy a used car or new car when they learn they’re not qualified for the program.
“It’s really turned out a lot better than we ever expected,” he said. “Of course, the paper work’s horrendous. You’ve got to get it right to get refunded from the government. They put quite a bit of pressure on you.”
• Purchase Ford-Lincoln-Mercury of Mayfield
Sales manager Al Page said the program’s been great, but they decided to “scale back,” pending Senate action on the additional $2 billion for the program.
“We stopped yesterday, about noon,” he said. “We are not officially doing deals until we find out if there’s more money to be had. We are at a stand still. (We) didn’t have any choice.”
“The program itself has brought out a lot more people than I ever thought it would, just to be frank about it,” he said.
Is the program over-regulated?
“Probably not,” Page said. “Over-paperworked in order to get reimbursed? Probably, yes. We haven’t had to hire extra help, but we’ve had to work several hours of overtime just to process papers.
“They are never going to reimburse us for our work. We just hope we’ll get our money back.”
Petty again
Petty said there’s one part of the Cash for Clunkers program that really rankles — foreign car manufacturers’ involvement. He asserts they should not have been included in the program. It should have been limited to the American automobile industry.
“Toyota, Honda and the rest of them didn’t need a stimulation package,” he said. “About 55 percent of all vehicles sold (in this country) are foreign cars and they’re taking the place of almost 100 percent of classic old American automobiles. GM has sold more than everybody else, but Toyota-Corolla has registered more. Toyota is second to General Motors, Ford is third. But Toyota’s registered more Corollas because apparently they had so many of them out there.
“We have been fighting World War II for 60 years and it’s not over yet. They have actually figured out a way to beat us and it didn’t have a thing to do with fighting. (They) did it without firing a shot. Our quality, our standards, our dealers are just as good (as foreign), if not better. If they didn’t have dealerships grandfathered in, in places like Martin and Murray (Ky.) and Dyersburg, they wouldn’t have dealerships in this area, ever. They are not going to come to you. You’ve got to go to them. That’s how crazy we are.”
Petty emphasizes that the sentiments he expresses are “just me talking, not the government, not (President) Obama.
“I think the program should have been (established) to stimulate the American car industry because that’s what needed it,” he said. “But they actually included the foreign car manufacturers in it.
“We have sold ourselves out. It’s hard to get an industry back that’s supplied everything this country needed for the last 50 years.
“I’m not talking sour grapes. I just think this program should have been only for the American auto industry.”
Published in The Messenger 8.7.09

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