WASHINGTON -- Dealers submitted 635,186 cash-for-clunkers claims for $2.65 billion in rebates as of early today, the U.S. Transportation Department said, indicating that the program is rapidly approaching its $3 billion limit on the last day for consumers to make deals.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood had set a deadline of 8 p.m. EDT for all dealer claims to be filed, but the deadline has since been twice extended, to sometime past noon on Tuesday. The consumer deadline passed at 8 p.m. EDT today.
LaHood said all dealers who submit their deals by the government deadline will get paid.
Last week LaHood said the budget will have enough money to handle expected submissions.
The Obama administration has not said what it would do if the $3 billion limit is exceeded or whether dealers would be paid if their claims are submitted after that limit is reached.
"The secretary has said dealers will get paid as long as deals are consummated in time," Bailey Wood, a National Automobile Dealers Association spokesman, said today. "We take him at his word."
The previous figures, released by Transportation Friday morning, were 489,269 claims submitted for $2.0 billion. Todays update reflected claims as of 7:47 a.m. Eastern time.
Last week NADA unsuccessfully urged Transportation to extend tonight's deadline, expressing concern that government computers would be unable to handle the surge in submissions.
The dealer group renewed its pleas this morning, only to see its fears materialize as dealers reported an inoperative submission Web site for much of the day. The Department of Transportation said in a statement it extended dealers filing deadline because of problems this afternoon with its site.