Read D.F.'s bio and previous columns


August 21, 2009

Where Can Dealers Get ‘Clunker’ Cash? Hello, Sanford and Son!


Somehow, you just knew, when the government started a program called “Cash for Clunkers,” the result would be clunkers as far as the eye could see, and cash would be hard to come by.


Those lucky car dealers, getting the wondrous help of the federal government, will be lucky if they don’t end up going out of business – or worse, ending up in the opening-segment video montage for a remake of Sanford and Son.


Here is how Cash for Clunkers works: A guy with one tooth and a car being held together by rust walks into a car dealership, saying he wants to trade in his rustmobile for a new, foreign-made SUV that will create American jobs and save the environment. “Ah herd ah kin get me forta-fahv hunid dollahs on a rebate,” he says. “Give it here!”


The dealer cuts a check for $4,500, payable to Bubba Joe Favre, then takes the old rustmobile out to the back, where it joins a cadre of other, recently acquired rustmobiles. Then the dealer does two things:


  1. It submits a request via http://www.cars.gov to the government for reimbursement of the $4,500.
  2. It waits for someone to take away the clunkers.


Sounds pretty simple, right? What could go wrong?




First of all, it would appear there is a problem with Cars.gov, which is to say, a large percentage of the time, the site is not working. This makes it hard for the dealers to put in for reimbursement. Second, once they finally do submit, they have no idea when the cash is going to show up. One dealer in Kansas City told a local TV station that the Cash for Clunkers program has only disbursed 4 percent of the money promised as reimbursement for dealers.


That particular dealer says he has 130 clunkers sitting on his lot right now, and he hasn’t seen a dime from the government yet.


Now let’s be conservative and estimate that the average the dealer paid in clunker rebates was not the maximum $4,500. Let’s guess it was only $2,000. That means the dealer has laid out $260,000 in cash, and has no idea when it is going to be reimbursed for it.


If you’ve got 100 employees at that dealership, and you cut each one an average paycheck of $1,200 every two weeks, that’s more than a month’s payroll. Plus, since you’ve just sold all these new cars, you have to take delivery on more new ones, and you’re going to get invoiced by the manufacturer for those. Big deal, you say, people will buy them! Are you sure? How do you know all the people willing to buy new cars haven’t already done so because the government promised to pay them up to $4,500? How do you know you’re not about to take delivery on another 130 cars that will sit there unloved when the Cash for Clunkers program finally runs out of money?


But there may be a new way to recover some of your cash! All you have to do is download the theme to Sanford and Son and hire two actors – one elderly and disheveled-looking, the other suave and sophisticated – and have them walk around your back lot amidst the clunkers. Have a geeky friend who knows how to make videos help you add in credits, and you can create your own opening sequence to a revival of the show.


I’d like to see Christopher Lloyd play Fred and Christian Bale play Lamont. Hey! They made a black Odd Couple! Why not a white Sanford and Son?


All you have to do is sell this concept to Hollywood, and you can probably recoup your Cash for Clunkers money much faster than you would waiting for the government to send you a check – since they’re still trying to convince the Chinese to lend it to them.


Otherwise, good luck staying in business while you bask in the glow of all that government help. And don’t sell those clunkers! They’re much too valuable not to be destroyed.


© 2009 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


Click here to talk to our writers and editors about this column and others in our discussion forum.


To e-mail feedback about this column, click here. If you enjoy this writer's work, please contact your local newspapers editors and ask them to carry it.

This is Column # DFK201. Request permission to publish here.
Op-Ed Writers
Eric Baerren
Lucia de Vernai
Herman Cain
Dan Calabrese
Bob Franken
Lawrence J. Haas
Paul Ibrahim
David Karki
Llewellyn King
Gregory D. Lee
David B. Livingstone
Bob Maistros
Rachel Marsden
Nathaniel Shockey
Stephen Silver
Candace Talmadge
Jessica Vozel
Jamie Weinstein
Brett Noel
Feature Writers
Mike Ball
Bob Batz
Cindy Droog
The Laughing Chef
David J. Pollay
Business Writers
D.F. Krause