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With a little help from the feds, clunkers be gone

Moody's in River Falls saw a surge in new car sales once the federal program "Cash for Clunkers" started late last month. Above, some of the so-called clunkers traded in for new, more fuel-efficient cars: Old Suburbans, Blazers, Ford Explorers. Owner Bobby Moody says these clunker trade-ins can't be sold. By government decree they must be drained of oil and the engine disabled with a solution of Sodium Silicate (liquid glass). The clunkers are then hauled off by a certified salvage yard for scrap. Phil P...

Bobby Moody was pleased but anxious. Terry Roen said the timing stunk and the near future remains grim.

Moody is pleased because his General Motors dealership just took in about a month's worth of new-car sales in a week's time.

But he's anxious until his dealership collects the $4,500 trade-in value from the federal government for each of the 16 "clunkers" taken in on new-car deals.

"The national 'Cash-for-Clunkers' program has been a great success for dealers and manufacturers," Moody said last week. "It's probably one of the only government stimulus packages that has worked."

Congress agreed, adding $2 billion to the original $1 billion that pays people to junk older, gas guzzlers and buy new, higher-gas mileage autos.

Terry Roen, co-owner and general manager of Roen Ford, disagrees.

"The program is complicated, the rules kept evolving and they left out a lot of potential customers," he said. "Plus the whole thing couldn't have come at a worse time."

Roen said many dealers are low on 2009 autos as they wait for 2010 models to arrive this fall.

"If I had more merchandise, I would have made a lot more sales," said Roen, whose dealership netted only two clunker-related sales.

Both sales -- one for a 2009 Focus and the other a 2010 Fusion -- represent models praised by car critics for reliability and fuel-efficiency.

But Roen said he and other area Ford dealers had their inventories slashed by Ford because of recent poor sales.

Read more in the Aug. 13 print edition of the River Falls Journal.