Car dealers confused about 'clunkers' future


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Earlier Thursday, the transportation department said the $1 billion program was already out of money and would be suspended at midnight. But now, the White House says cash for clunkers is simply under review.

All the confusion has created chaos at local car dealerships.

At Capitol Volkswagen in San Jose, the sales manager called an emergency meeting. The sales team called their customers to say, "time is running out."

"Somebody called me and said, 'you gotta come in today, it's ending today,'" potential car buyer Nicole Dominguez said.

Dominguez owns a 1998 minivan that gets 16 miles per gallon.

Under the /*cash for clunkers program*/, any car that gets 18 miles or less qualifies. The government will then give the owner a $4,500 rebate for any new car that gets 10 miles more per gallon.

"That's why we're here actually, because we want to make sure we make the deadline because we don't want to end up with a clunker and no new car," Dominguez said.

The $1 billion program was supposed to last through October, but just six days into it the feds say it is almost out of money.

The Volkswagen dealership has closed more than 75 cash for clunkers deals but the paper work for only two has fully been processed. That means the federal government owes the owners more than $300,000.

"We're not concerned about the money not getting paid, we're concerned the program could be out of money at this point and that the program will not continue," Del Grande Dealer Group President Shaun Del Grande said.

Thursday night, the White House guaranteed all dealers will be paid, as the feds evaluate every option to keep the program funded.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein and her colleague from Maine, Sen. Susan Collins, say they want the standards for cash for clunkers to be even stricter if the program is extended.

The senators released a statement Thursday night saying, "We will insist that any extension of the program requires that the minimum fuel economy improvement for newly purchased vehicles be at least two miles per gallon higher."

Feinstein and Collins also want the program to include price breaks on fuel-efficient used vehicles.

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