CATHEDRAL CITY – Ford Focuses are on sale at Palm Springs Motors in a nearly empty parking lot. It’s just one sign of how many cars are being sold.
“Car sales are up for the first time in a long, long time,” sales manager Roy Hoffman says. “We’re up about 40 percent from last month already.”
Auto dealers credit the Cash For Clunkers program. When it first started, the government told dealerships the program should have enough money to last until November. They underestimated it by a huge amount.
So many people are flooding the government website, it’s become an exercise in frustration.
“It’s takingfour orfive minutes just to get onto the [Clunkers] website,” says Hoffman at his computer.
Consider this: if you split the $1 billion Congress spent so far between every auto dealership nationwide, it comes out to only a dozen cars for each place. Most local dealers have traded in much more than that.
“We’ve done around 20 so far just here. Between thetwo dealerships we own in the Coachella Valley, it’s getting close to 40,” explains Hoffman.
When people heard the Cash For Clunkers program would end Thursday night, so many came in to trade in their clunkers, the sales staff at Palm Springs Motors was busy until one in the morning.
Car dealerships are important to most Valley cities, more so in Cathedral City. This city “lives or dies” by the sales tax the auto dealers bring in.
“That’s cops, that’s firefighters, that’s the nice gal at the counter who take your application when you want to build a new addition to your home,” Cathedral City councilman Paul Marchand explains.”Obviously, to most people, cops and firefighters are essential. I like to say, come to Cathedral City, buy a car, help a cop.”
The Cash For Clunkers program now has $2 billion extra federal dollars. Do the math and that amounts to an extra 24 cars per dealership. Those will likely run out in a week.
In other words, if you’re looking for a new car and want to trade in your clunker, you’d better do it soon. Time is running out.