DOT Builds CARS

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

The Department of Transportation (DOT) has fired-up its Cash4Clunkers website. I would have thought the bill’s nickname would have been ideal for the job, but then I’m not a public servant. And so the feds present its brand new website with a new name: CARS (Car Allowance Rebate System). Definitely a case of not leaving well enough alone. To wit: a button on cars.gov asking “How will CARS work”. Apropos of nothing, the site also has a strange FAQ: “I don’t drive an American car but I would like to trade in my old car for a newer, more fuel efficient one. Is this program only for American cars?” Now why would anyone think that? More CARS after the jump.

According to Congressional Budget Office estimates, some 77 million vehicles built between 1990 and 2006 qualify for 250,000 vouchers. Automotive Alliance rep Charles Territo welcomes the program on behalf of his clients, who hope this is only the beginning of the fed’s new car market stimuli. Not to say that Charlie thinks CARS is (are?) idea. “There are lots of way to pick holes in this program,” Territo admitted to TTAC. “But we didn’t want the perfect to be the enemy of the good.” Don’t you just hate it when that happens?

Fortunately, the DOT wants to make sure that the perfidious aren’t the enemy of the good. Automotive News [sub] reports that the feds admit that “its biggest challenge will be devising a fraud prevention program in the next month or so.” Or so? That’s not what I’d call a promising start. It gets better/worse, in that “I just spent four hours at the DMV and all I got was this lousy form” kinda way . . .

Consumers who come into dealerships to swap their vehicles for new, more fuel-efficient cars and trucks while collecting a credit of $3,500 to $4,500 will have to wait while the government verifies that the transaction qualifies under the new law, said Rae Tyson, a spokesman for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

NHTSA doesn’t know yet how long the approval process will take or whether the customer will have to return a second time to the dealer to get confirmation, he said.

By law, the DOT has thirty days to launch the program after the President signs it into existence. Even that’s not going all that smoothly.

Barack Obama has indicated he soon will sign the bill. But in one sign of the confusion about the new legislation, NHTSA posted a new cash-for-guzzlers Web site over the weekend [Note: who told Automotive News they could re-nickname this program?] that stated incorrectly that the president had signed the bill Friday.

“That’s what we were told,” Tyson said . . .

By whom? If this is how CARS starts, could the program collapse under its (their?) own weight, or devolve into widespread fraud? As you know, we here at TTAC always look on the sunny side of life. So, no, that can’t happen. Still, we’re in uncharted waters, filled with what some people call sharks (a.k.a. stealerships). Even the feds seem a bit, well, jumpy about the whole thing.

The government will have to hire dozens of new staff members, recruit contractors and prepare new software to manage dealer applications and government payments, Tyson said.

“NHTSA has never had to administer a program of this size or type,” he said. “It’s a complex undertaking.”

Robert Farago
Robert Farago

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  • FRITOMAN FRITOMAN on Jun 27, 2009

    I am a new car dealer, people are asking questions I dont even know how to answer. They need to get the web site up and running. I just read that we might have to have the customers come back????? Are they nuts!!!! So they will have two week to back out of a car deal. We are good to our customers, not too worried about that. But........ And then the deal with scraping them, we own a junk yard and yes you are right there will be more and more used parts out there cheaper. The problem is there will be a surplus, you know less of these cars on the road. What is the scrap value now, how about $0 the junk yard has to dispose of all liquids, and tires according to federal laws. That costs money and we have to pay a person or two to do that. Certain parts that are valuable have to be crushed with the vehicle according to the law. Junk yards make money over time sometimes it takes years to get money for vehicles. They need to get the dealer website up and running!!!!

  • JoeW JoeW on Aug 18, 2009

    Its as ahame that this is the second entry on Google results when you try to get information about this program. The home page article is so full of bile, anti-government rhetoric and propaganda that you wonder who would write such misinformation. Oh, that's right. Republicans.

  • Lichtronamo Watch as the non-us based automakers shift more production to Mexico in the future.
  • 28-Cars-Later " Electrek recently dug around in Tesla’s online parts catalog and found that the windshield costs a whopping $1,900 to replace.To be fair, that’s around what a Mercedes S-Class or Rivian windshield costs, but the Tesla’s glass is unique because of its shape. It’s also worth noting that most insurance plans have glass replacement options that can make the repair a low- or zero-cost issue. "Now I understand why my insurance is so high despite no claims for years and about 7,500 annual miles between three cars.
  • AMcA My theory is that that when the Big 3 gave away the store to the UAW in the last contract, there was a side deal in which the UAW promised to go after the non-organized transplant plants. Even the UAW understands that if the wage differential gets too high it's gonna kill the golden goose.
  • MKizzy Why else does range matter? Because in the EV advocate's dream scenario of a post-ICE future, the average multi-car household will find itself with more EVs in their garages and driveways than places to plug them in or the capacity to charge then all at once without significant electrical upgrades. Unless each vehicle has enough range to allow for multiple days without plugging in, fighting over charging access in multi-EV households will be right up there with finances for causes of domestic strife.
  • 28-Cars-Later WSJ blurb in Think or Swim:Workers at Volkswagen's Tennessee factory voted to join the United Auto Workers, marking a historic win for the 89- year-old union that is seeking to expand where it has struggled before, with foreign-owned factories in the South.The vote is a breakthrough for the UAW, whose membership has shrunk by about three-quarters since the 1970s, to less than 400,000 workers last year.UAW leaders have hitched their growth ambitions to organizing nonunion auto factories, many of which are in southern states where the Detroit-based labor group has failed several times and antiunion sentiment abounds."People are ready for change," said Kelcey Smith, 48, who has worked in the VW plant's paint shop for about a year, after leaving his job at an Amazon.com warehouse in town. "We look forward to making history and bringing change throughout the entire South."   ...Start the clock on a Chattanooga shutdown.
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