Duke Brubaker, general sales manager of Champion Ford-Lincoln-Mercury-Mazda in Owensboro, Ky., tried to turn himself in to the feds.
He has sold 42 cars under the cash for clunkers program and, as of last week, had three deals approved -- but none reimbursed. With reimbursement uncertain, he kept the sold cars on his lot as a protection. He told customers he would give them the keys when the government clunker checks arrived.
Brubaker then learned that his maneuver was prohibited by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which oversees the trade-in program. Fearing repercussions, he picked up the phone and called a NHTSA consumer complaint hot line and tried to report himself.
He couldn't get an answer. He left a message, then phoned his customers to tell them to come pick up their new vehicles.
"This whole 'must deliver the car' really gets me upset," Brubaker fumes. "What happens if a customer is dishonest?"