Cash for Clunkers offically ends

August 24, 2009 7:00:35 PM PDT
The federal cars program was supposed to run right up until 5:00 p.m. tonight, but it clunked out early thanks to an overloaded computer program that prevented dealers from getting into the online system for hours today.

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The deadline for cash for clunkers was supposed to be 5:00 p.m. and it is now officially over for consumers, but ABC7 found of from many dealers that they were going to stop the program early, out of fear that the government program might become overloaded and crash at the last minute. And today that's exactly what happened.

A blank computer screen greeted Bay Area car dealers for much of the day, at least those trying to log on to the federal cars web site to submit the last of their cash for clunkers applications.

So buyers looking to make last-minute clunker deals were largely, out of luck.

"Some people had to go to DMV to get information required for registrations and the DMV was closed on Friday. They're closed on Saturday, so basically, they had to go today. I feel sorry for those people," said Stephanie Malone from Walnut Creek Ford.

By midday, the Department of Transportation issued this statement: "Despite a large increase in the system's capacity, the web site was down temporarily this afternoon."

With that, the Department of Transportation gave dealers until noon Tuesday to submit the paperwork for transactions completed by 5:00 p.m. today.

A car buyer got his clunker deal done, just in time. He received $3,500 for his old F150 pickup toward the purchase of this new truck.

At Walnut Creek Honda, general manager Gordon Walton said his store quit the program a day early.

"We stopped yesterday at 5:00 p.m., just to make sure we could have everything submitted and in and all the documentation in and everything," said Walton.

So far, the Honda dealer's received payment from the government on about 25 of the 139 clunker deals completed.

Those are the cars that will be killed off first. The program requires a clunker's engine oil be drained and replaced with the chemical sodium silicate.

The car is then started, and in this case, within 45 seconds, it's disabled for good.

The clunkers are sent to a wrecking car to be crushed. With all of the computer problems, what the government did today was extend the deadline for dealers to file their paperwork until noon eastern time on Tuesday. There is no extension for consumers and the cash for clunkers program is over.

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