A $2 billion boon for the nation’s cash-for-clunkers coffer is headed for the U.S. Senate after the House of Representatives approves the expenditure.
Lawmakers reportedly rushed the legislation through today by a vote of 316-109 after new-vehicle sales accelerate so sharply industry experts feared the original $1 billion allotment would be exhausted.
But the Senate will not vote on the measure until it reconvenes next week, says Adam Benson, a spokesman for Congressman John Dingell, D-MI, a strong supporter of the program known as CARS, or Car Allowance Rebate System.
Officially launched this week, the program mimics successful scrappage programs in other countries by offering either a rebate of $3,500 or $4,500 when consumers exchange a qualified clunker towards the purchase or lease of a new vehicle.
The program was scheduled to run until Nov. 1, or whenever the funds were exhausted. The CARS legislation originally called for $4 billion of funding, but as it moved through Congress opposition to the measure slashed its worth to $1 billion.
Dingell calls initial results “remarkable” and news of its funding pinch “a great problem to have… It is providing a jolt to our economic recovery efforts.”
The money approved in today’s House bill would come from the Innovative Technology Loan Guarantee Program, an element of the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed in February. A $10 billion program, the technology loans have been approved but not awarded.
Dingell calls on his colleagues in the Senate to act quickly and not get “bogged down by calls to change the program.
“That would only serve to stall the extension and confuse consumers,” he says in a statement. “We cannot and should not make changes to an extremely successful program that has only been operating for a week. That would be irresponsible.
“I urge the passage of this bill,” he says.
Dealers are thrilled, if beleaguered by the possibility of additional funding as early as next week.
“Another $2 billion in the pot is great,” says Steve Landis, general manager at Elder Ford in Troy, MI. However, he is frustrated by the time required to file the necessary documentation.
NHTSA server traffic has been so heavy, sales reps at Elder Ford have been unable to register the 30 CARS transactions they’ve completed.
“There’s a lot of stuff to get done here,” Landis says. Still, he has no complaints. “It’s a great thing for the industry. It’s a godsend.”
Landis says his dealership has processed mostly vans and SUVs in trade for Focus and Fusion cars.