WASHINGTON -- Dealers cash-for-clunker claims are being rejected at a dramatically lower rate because data entry errors have declined, setting the stage for a speed-up of federal rebates, a Transportation Department spokesman said Tuesday.
The rejection rate has been as high as 80 percent in recent weeks, said National Automobile Dealers Association officials.
As many as 13,000 transactions were officially rejected Aug. 12, Jim Appleton, president of the New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers, told coalition members last week after a conference call with federal officials.
But in the past 10 days, the rejection rate has fallen substantially to an unspecified level after efforts by NADA and Transportation officials to train dealers on proper data entry, the Transportation spokesman said.
Errors have declined dramatically, the spokesman, who asked not to be identified, said in a phone interview.
The improvement will help ease the backlog of claims filed multiple times after government rejection of dealer rebate applications, he said. This backlog has slowed reimbursements to dealers for payment of $3,500 or $4,500 credits to customers.
Federal payments to dealers also will be accelerated by the Transportation Departments effort to triple its claims-processing staff to 1,100 public and private employees by the end of this week, said the spokesman.
The staff increases -- from 350 employees at the end of last week at Citigroup Inc., Oracle Corp. and the Transportation Department -- apparently have been in the works for some time.
A Louisiana dealer representative said any reduction in rejections hasnt gone far enough. He pinned the blame on the government rather than dealers.
Theres still a lot of frustration and especially when there seems to be inconsistency in the process, said Bob Israel, president of the Louisiana Automobile Dealers Association.
He cited one dealer in his state who reported recently that he entered 28 claims at the same time, all in the same way, all following the example in the rules.
Sixteen of these claims were accepted and 12 were rejected, Israel said.
This kind of inconsistency leads dealers to believe theres human error involved, he said.
The most common complaint Israel receives is that filings remain in limbo without either an acceptance or a rejection, he said.
The Transportation spokesman declined to confirm NADAs 80 percent error figure nor say what the error rate is now. He also said he had no figures on the percentage of transactions being reimbursed.
But he predicted that payments to dealers soon would accelerate if they havent already.
When you get more transactions approved and you get more people reviewing transactions, payments are inevitably speeded up, the spokesman said.
NADA spokesman Charles Cyrill said the dealer group has been working very hard to train dealers.
Transportation published dealers 10 Leading Errors on its Web site last week, Appleton said in his e-mail to members of the New Jersey Coalition.
The main reasons for rejecting transactions, he said, include absence of the words junk automobile, cars.gov on the front and back of the title document, lack of proof of insurance and inconsistent vehicle identification numbers.
A North Carolina Automobile Dealers Association survey found that its members have been paid for just 1.7 percent of submitted transactions and are waiting for $68 million in reimbursements.
A similar Virginia Automobile Dealers Association survey found that 2.8 percent of claims were paid.