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KATHY TOPPINS | THE EDMOND SUN Steve Hazelton, Bob Howard Honda salesman, gives the keys for a new Honda Civic to Kim Denning and her daughter Kaitlin on Saturday. Their family traded in a 1999 Dodge B150 conversion van to qualify for the Cash for Clunkers program.

Kim Denning bid farewell to the family’s 1999 Dodge B150 conversion van that had safely transported her family of eight about 173,000 miles.

“It’s been such a good car,” said Denning, struggling with the Cash for Clunkers requirement that her trade-in be crushed or shredded.

On Saturday afternoon, with little time to spare, Kim and Ed Denning joined the crowds at local car dealers for the last weekend of the $3 billion Cash for Clunkers program. The couple took advantage of the $4,500 rebate to buy a fuel-efficient Honda Civic from Bob Howard Honda, 13201 N. Kelley Ave.

“On the flipside of my emotional state,” said Kim Denning, “all we had been offered for a trade-in was $800.” The $4,500 inspired the Edmond family to let go of the van that needed a few repairs and averaged only 13 miles per gallon. With their latest purchase, the Edmond family now owns a Civic, Accord and Pilot, all Hondas.

Steve Hazelton, top salesman for the dealership, said the Cash for Clunkers program has been responsible for about 80 percent of his sales since the program began. “There’s no question the program has brought in the traffic,” Hazelton said. Before the program started, he said, his sales were down about 20 percent.

At 1 p.m. Saturday, Bob Howard Honda General Manager Dennis Davis said he had only 28 Hondas and six Acuras left on his lot. He expected to sell another four or five cars in the following hour and a half. “Nobody has any inventory. We didn’t see this coming,” Davis said.

“The dark side of the moon is the government owes just this store over $400,000,” Davis said. “I’m starting to get a little bit of money. It’s very frustrating.”

While the act says the government will process dealer transactions within 10 days, Davis said he has transactions from July 29 still under review.

“Many dealers are having a real tough time because they can’t meet payroll. They can’t pay their vendors. They’re out of cash,” Davis said. Dealers pay for every new car and get nothing for the trade, so they’re short $3,500 or $4,500 per transaction. “The government has put the free-enterprise dealer in a real tough spot,” Davis said. He said his dealership is fortunate to have adequate capital.

The program also has resulted in a lot of extra paperwork and, occasionally, disappointment for the customer, Hazelton said. As the program neared the end, dealers and customers ran out of the time necessary to solve documentation problems.

Some clunker owners wanted to make a deal, Hazelton said, but had discarded the white, half-page registration sheets that prove continuous ownership of the vehicle for at least a year. Or, they had the registration sheets, but had taken advantage of Oklahoma’s one-month grace period, creating the appearance of a gap in ownership.

As the program neared its end, Davis reported more problems with bandits. He said a man from southern Oklahoma had transported a clunker on a trailer. He pulled the clunker to the top of the hill and planned to coast it down to the dealership. The rules stipulate that participants must drive their trade-in to the dealer where they were buying a new car.

Davis said he was ready to see the program come to an end.

“We’re going to restock with inventory. We’re going to go back to what we’ve been doing for 15 years,” he said.

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