Rush On 'Cash For Clunkers' Crashes Web SiteGetty Images

It’s a program that finally has people flocking to car dealerships, which have been hit particularly hard in the recession.

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The federal government’s rebate program, known as “Cash for Clunkers,” offers thousands of dollars to people who trade in their gas guzzlers for new, more fuel efficient cars. But, the program isn’t debuting without a hitch, as Shrewsbury car buyer John McDonald found out.

“We were all set to go, then this thing with the government turned up and we’re kind of at a stalemate right now.”

John and his wife, Leona, are trading in their 1994 Chrysler Town and Country minivan for a spiffy new Honda Fit. They’re going from 16 miles per gallon to 30. They qualified for a $4,500 rebate, much more than they could get for a trade-in.

“Plus I don’t have the hassle of trying to sell it privately,” said Leona.

They were supposed to have the car by now, but it remains on the dealership lot, along with dozens of others marked with “sold” signs. The problem, dealers are having a hard time trying to enter the paperwork for the program on the government’s Web site.

Vice President of Prime Motor Group, Matthew McGovern, believes he knows why.

“Probably because 20 thousand dealers are hitting the Web site all at once trying to get their deals submitted.”

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The Web site began to have problems early on. Dealers say 15 minutes after it went online Saturday, it crashed. The federal government has set a cap of $1 billion for the program, so buyers want to make sure they get in before the funds run out.

Here in Massachusetts, there’s the extra pressure of a looming sales tax increase August first. The McDonalds believe buying the car now will save them about $250 in sales tax.

McGovern says Prime Honda alone has 50 deals pending, including the McDonalds. And he says they’ll honor the deals.

“We’re still willing to write transactions and sell cars under the clunker program.”

McGovern trusts the government will come through with the cash, once the Web site becomes accessible.

As for John and Leona McDonald, they look forward to driving in style very soon.


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