Cash for Clunkers a boon for Chicago-area dealers

July 29, 2009 (CHICAGO) Since it was announced, some dealers say business has hit full-throttle.

In Oak Lawn, Lydia Loureiro was shopping for a new car Wednesday afternoon, hoping to qualify under the Cash for Clunkers program.

"We were thinking about buying a new car for the past two years, and this was a really good incentive for us to come out here," Loureiro said.

The $1 billion government incentive program has lured people to dealerships across the Chicago area. Mancari's Chrysler Jeep in Oak Lawn has sold about 50 cars in four days--more than double their normal sales.

The sales manager there has witnessed the customer frenzy.

"Just complete chaos, everybody is fighting over cars. It's like the old days. when we had a car that was in demand, everybody would fight for it. It's the same thing," Russ Ondo said.

The sales frenzy is on, but Chief Economist for Mesirow Financial Diane Swonk warns about the long-term economic picture.

"It may be a bridge. You hope it's a bridge, but on the other side of it you need something to fundamentally change. What fundamentally needs to change is we need to start generating jobs. Hopefully, that will start happening by the end of the year," Swonk said.

For now, the clunkers are lining up.

The requirements of the program are:

  • Your trade-in vehicle must be less than 25 years old
  • It must get 18 miles per gallon or less.
  • You must prove your vehicle has been continuously insured and registered for at least one year before the trade-in.
  • When you trade it in, it will be scrapped.
  • Your trade-in value should be less than $4,500.
  • It only works if you purchase or lease a brand-new vehicle.

Depending on your gas mileage, and if you qualify, you can get a government credit worth $3500 or $4500 dollars.

The government's goal is twofold; they want more fuel-efficient cars on the roads across the country, and they want to boost care sales for dealerships that qualify.

Chrysler is throwing in matching funds, so for Lydia Loureiro that's $8,000 off a brand-new minivan.

"I'm pretty excited, once again. It's definitely fitting in our family budget, and it's exactly what we wanted. We got the car we wanted for the price we wanted," Loureiro said.

When it comes to the economy, Swonk said it lost substantial ground during the last several months, and that it's still "a very deep hole" when you consider unemployment and other economic factors. She says, overall, this program may provide a bit of a jumpstart for next year.

It's important people do their homework before applying. The program runs until November 1 or until the $1 billion allocated runs out.

Most new car dealers will be participating in the CARS program.

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