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Give Me a Discount! Obama Said So

Give Me a Discount! Obama Said So

The $4,500 clunker rebate does not take effect until August.

Jennifer Robison, Las Vegas Review-Journal

Don’t mess with a hungry woman who wants a bargain.

That’s a lesson the sales staff at Findlay Toyota in Henderson learned Friday when they crossed paths with Alison, a local school psychologist who declined to give the Review-Journal her last name.

Alison caught wind of a federal program the Senate approved Thursday to pay consumers up to $4,500 to send their old gas guzzler to the scrap heap in favor of a more fuel-efficient new car. So she stopped by Findlay to discuss trading in her 1997 Ford Explorer, with its 212,000 miles and bad radiator, for a new Toyota Highlander. She would reap big savings on fuel: The Ford gets 15 miles per gallon, while the Highlander gets 27, she said.

There was just one problem: The government rebate doesn’t kick in until August, and Alison wanted her deal Friday.

“I haven’t had lunch, so this isn’t a good time to discuss this,” Alison told sales associate Joseph Watkins as she walked out of the dealership. “I’m not going to do this (buy) today, because I want my $4,500. I’ll call in two months.”

It was the first time a prospective Findlay Toyota buyer attempted to use the coming federal discount as a bargaining chip, said Rich Abajian, the dealership’s general manager. Despite the delayed sale, Abajian said he believes the voucher program will rustle up more business for Findlay later in the summer.

“It will all work out for the best,” Abajian said. “It will affect a small percentage of our buyers, but it will make a big difference for the people who do buy.”

President Barack Obama is expected to sign into law the “cash for clunkers” program. For owners of low-mileage models such as the 1994 Ford Bronco, 1998 Nissan Pathfinder or the 1995 Chevrolet Blazer, the plan could give them a reason to visit their local car dealer during an economic downturn.

Here’s how the plan works: Car owners could get a voucher worth $3,500 if they traded in a vehicle getting 18 miles per gallon or less for one getting at least 22 miles per gallon. The voucher would grow to $4,500 if the new car’s mileage was 10 miles per gallon higher than that of the old vehicle. That’s a significant chunk of change that could serve as a down payment and help buyers obtain financing, Abajian said.

Owners of sport utility vehicles, pickup trucks or minivans getting 18 miles per gallon or less could receive a voucher for $3,500 if their new truck or SUV got at least 2 miles per gallon more than their old vehicle. The voucher would increase to $4,500 if the mileage of the new truck or SUV was at least 5 miles per gallon higher than the older vehicle.