Nightly News   |  August 20, 2009

End of the road for Cash for Clunkers

Aug. 20: As dealers across the country fume about the slow pace of reimbursements, the government on Thursday announced that the popular Cash for Clunkers program will end Monday. NBC's Tom Costello reports.

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ANN CURRY, anchor: There is word from Washington that the cash for clunkers program will end on Monday, just four days from now. The popular, multibillion-dollar program , which has already been extended once, is coming to the end of the road less than five weeks after it began. NBC 's Tom Costello now joins us from Washington with more on this. Tom :

TOM COSTELLO reporting: Hi, Ann. Good evening. It's likely to be a busy weekend at dealerships. Car owners can get up to $4500 for trading in a clunker for a new, more fuel efficient car. Well, at 8 PM Eastern time on Monday, all that application paperwork must be submitted. The program comes to an end.

Unidentified Woman: Sounds good.

Unidentified Man #1: Thanks for buying at Westfield Ford .

COSTELLO: Calling it one of the most successful short-term economic stimulus programs, the White House today said it's time to start winding down its cash for clunkers program .

President BARACK OBAMA: It has been successful beyond anybody's imagination.

COSTELLO: Dealers and the government have been overwhelmed. As of today , the cash for clunkers program has recorded more than 457,000 dealer transactions, worth $1.9 billion in rebates.

Ms. REBECCA LINDLAND (Auto Analyst): The benefits are really twofold. Get -- it's gotten the consumer back into the showroom, it's gotten dealerships in better financial condition and, of course , it's helped the manufacturers as well.

COSTELLO: But the government admits it's processed fewer than half the rebate allocations, and many must be resubmitted by 8 PM Monday after the forms were filled out incorrectly, all of it leaving most participating dealers out thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars as they wait to get paid.

Unidentified Man #2: Let me go and get the key.

COSTELLO: In Sarasota , John Tubersky has sold some 50 cars under the program .

Mr. JOHN TUBERSKY: We have well over a quarter million dollars right now invested. So we're -- we think that hopefully soon, you know, we'll start to get some more of that money . You know, we're confident that the government 's going to come through, but they've just been a little bit slow.

COSTELLO: Again today the president insisted the dealers will get their money .

Pres. OBAMA: I think this is actually a high class problem to have that we're selling too many cars too quickly, and there's some backlog in the application process. It is getting fixed.

COSTELLO: Of the $3 billion budgeted for this program , the government has only paid out $145 million. Critics say the government should not be involved in this kind of a program , of buying used cars . They call it a giveaway. Ann , back to you.