Clunkers' Tab So Far: $2.58 Billion

In the program's final hours, rebate cash and inventories dwindle.

ByABC News
August 24, 2009, 12:24 PM

Aug. 24, 2009— -- With the deadline for the government's "Cash for Clunkers" program now just hours away, the Department of Transportation says the total requests for "clunkers" rebates are up to at least 625,000 at a value of $2.58 billion -- a more than half-billion-dollar increase from Friday morning.

The deadline for auto dealers to close all clunkers sales is 8 p.m. tonight. The deadline for dealers to submit Clunkers applications was initially also 8 p.m. tonight, but the DOT announced this afternoon that it would extend the deadline until noon tomorrow due to "overwhelming demand" on the government's CARS computer system.

The DOT said that despite "a large increase in the system's capacity," the system was shut down temporarily in the afternoon.

The DOT announcement comes days after the National Auto Dealers Association, citing frequent breakdowns in the system, called for an application deadline extension.

The government has allotted a total of $3 billion for clunkers deals, including $2 billion in additional funding approved by Congress earlier this month, following concerns that the wildly popular program would run out of cash.

Under the program, also known as the Car Allowance Rebate System or CARS, customers turning in gas-guzzling old cars receive rebates of up to $4,500 to be used toward the purchase of new vehicles.

As dealers struggle with computer issues, more and more would-be clunkers customers are finding their options limited by threadbare inventories and fewer participating dealers.

The clunkers applications that dealers submit to the government must include a customer's proof of insurance, title and registration for their old vehicles, among other documents. Critics have alleged that the application system is time-consuming and onerous.

After making dozens of sales on Friday and Saturday, Steve Gates, the owner of Toyota South, a Toyota dealership in Richmond, Ky., said he has just two new cars remaining on a lot usually full of more than 100 vehicles.

"A number of people have come in the last several days -- they were concerned that we were going out of business," after seeing his near-empty lot, Gates said.