Customers have been flocking to Shuman Chrysler-Jeep for cash-for-clunkers deals. Thirty-three have their new cars, and their trade-ins are sitting at the back of the dealership in Walled Lake, Mich.
What dealer Bob Shuman lacks today is government rebate money -- or any assurance when hell get it. At stake is about $110,000, Shuman said.
Im worried that the money is not there, he said. I keep going to the official clunkers site. It says the program is still running. My policy is Im going to keep taking the deals until the CARS site [cars.gov] says no or the Senate votes it down.
If, ultimately, we cant collect from the government, then youll get into a fascinating discussion, said Shuman, who is also a lawyer. Did we tell them [customers] their vehicle qualified and it didnt, or did the customer make a mistake?
Shuman and his sales staff are careful not to take any deals they dont think will get government approval. They explain to customers that the buyers are responsible for the rebate claims, and customers sign an agreement acknowledging that.
Were saying if theres a problem with the paperwork or the claim that you agree you will do everything you can to help us -- that youre responsible for that claim, Shuman said.
If its rejected for some silly reason, we fix it and go on our merry way. If its something more fundamental that cant be fixed, you have to have that conversation with the customer -- and what a challenging conversation it is.
If a problem crops up, Shuman said: You start off with the premise you would unwind the deal. Youd take the new car back and give him back his clunker. That gets harder to do with every moment, especially if the clunker already has been scrapped.
Despite the uncertainties, Shuman advises shoppers to proceed: They need to take the car now. Not tomorrow. Not the next day. But now. Because the program could end right now.
Meanwhile, Shuman wonders how government auditors possibly can cope with the volume of claims to qualify clunker deals. Titles and insurance policies vary and must be audited one by one. He said it can take his own employees 25 minutes to evaluate the paperwork on a single trade-in.
Said Shuman: I dont see how the government could possibly look deeply at each of these claims. How could you train the people to do it in this short period of time?