Brian Godfrey, general manager of Pat Milliken Ford in suburban Detroit, is glad he had plenty of vehicles in stock, especially Ford Fusions, Focuses and Escapes.
Godfrey said he was getting cash-for-clunker customers today from other dealers who had run out of the models.
Focuses are the hardest to get, he said.
Pat Milliken was doing extraordinary business at midmorning today. Customers crowded around all but a couple of the dealers 24 sales desks happily chatting and seemingly oblivious to the din of power drills and screwdrivers re-facing half the showroom.
Godfrey said it has been a banner week. He estimated that the dealership had sold 150 vehicles, approximately doubling sales for July.
Of the vehicles sold this week, about 80 to 100 were clunker deals, in which buyers received $3,500 to $4,500 for the older-model vehicles they were trading in, Godfrey said.
Whats more, the close rate for walk-ins driving away in a new vehicle was topping 50 percent compared with a normal success rate of 20 percent, he said.
Theres no doubt that the program has brought new buyers into the market, Godfrey said. Were getting lots of buyers who are bringing in cars that theyve been driving for 10 to 15 years.
With that kind of buyer, they probably wouldnt mind waiting a few more years without a big incentive like this.
Godfrey said customers and sales staff seemed to be taking in stride the slowness of the claims system. Most customers who came in for a clunker trade had done their homework on whether their older vehicles qualified for the incentive, he said.
To accommodate customers, the dealership has been open until 9 p.m. every day this week. Typically, it is open late on Monday and Thursday. Pat Milliken Ford is closed Saturday.
Godfrey said lots of buyers had chosen the vehicles they wanted in the days and weeks since the clunker program was announced in late June.
He said a lot of delays and processing snafus could have been minimized if the federal government had installed a pre-approval process for customers intending to use the program.
That way, customers could have been given codes to bring to dealerships to smooth a certification process that can easily take more than an hour per deal.
The sales staff also is getting some perplexed frowns from potential buyers who have brought in cars more than 10 years old only to be informed that they dont qualify.
He recounted an incident this week of a man who was sure his 15-year-old Ford Taurus must qualify. He was disappointed to learn that it was rated a combined 20 mpg on the road and it needed to be 18 or less.
Godfrey observed: Those types of cars are definitely clunkers, but theyre not guzzlers.