“Cash For Clunkers” Stalled

Clunkers are coming, but the cash isn't going out

If you ask Pete Bracket from Prospect, Conn., why he bought a new Nissan Altima, he looks down and smiles.

"It's a good-looking car first off,” Bracket, 23, said.

And he'll also tell you he got a sweet deal.

"It's brand new car,” Bracket said. “I've never driven a new car ever."

But even though he's put the money down, “I can't drive it,” Bracket said, as he stood by the red coupe inside the Barberino Nissan showroom in Wallingford Wednesday night. “This is actually mine right here, and as you can see, it's still on the showroom floor."

That's because Bracket took advantage of the federal government's “Cash for Clunkers” program, which is stuck in park.

The program, which is part of the Obama Administration’s stimulus package, will give you anywhere from $3,500 to $4,500 off a new car, depending on how many more miles per gallon the new car would go compared to an eligible trade-in vehicle.

Bracket traded in his gas-guzzling Oldsmobile that got 16 miles per gallon and got $4,500 off the more fuel-efficient Altima.

"I couldn't refuse this offer,” Bracket said. “It really pushed me to go out and buy a car."

The way the program works is the car dealer takes up to $4,500 directly off the sticker price of the car. To get that money back from the government, the dealer needs a code, and that’s where the problem comes in.

"The government had a website that basically was going to give us redemption codes for all the vehicles," explained John Mocadlo, General Manager at Barberino Nissan in Wallingford.

But a snafu with the website, has left Mocadlo and other dealerships with no access to the codes.

Mocadlo says he’s sold two dozen cars under the program, that he is still waiting to deliver.

"You get a call every half hour, ‘Is my car ready?’ ‘Is the Clunker program ready?” said Mocadlo. “And the people think that we're lying to them, but it's the government dragging their feet. They are just not giving us the tools that we need to deliver the vehicle."

Nissan and the other car franchises are pushing to fix the problem.

"It's going to happen,” Mocadlo said. “People have to just be patient for a few more days."

As for Pete Bracket, he says, "the sooner the better. When that money comes in it's my car and I get to drive it."

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