CBS Claims ‘Hollywood Ending’ for Failed Cash for Clunkers Program

Ben Tracy, CBS On Thursday’s CBS Evening News, correspondent Ben Tracy reported on the ending of the problem-ridden Cash for Clunkers car buying program, but spun it this way: "Thanks to Cash for Clunkers, what could have been a dismal summer for car sales now has a Hollywood ending....But now, the wildly successful program that provided up to $4500 per clunker is being scrapped."

Tracy visited a Los Angeles Toyota car dealership, hence the Hollywood reference, and spoke with owner Don Mushin who explained: "We normally sell about 300 cars a month. We’re on track this month to do about 600." However, Tracy went on to acknowledge: "Yet, there have been problems. Dealers have to front the money for the rebates, sometimes to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the government has been slow to pay them back.."

Mushin clarified: "Slow, I don’t think is the word." Tracy continued: "This dealership made 183 clunker deals, but has been reimbursed for just one. The government owes them $800,000. So Don and many other dealers are pulling out of the program early for fear of not getting paid." Being owed close to a million dollars doesn’t exactly sound like a "Hollywood ending."

When Cash for Clunkers began, CBS claimed it was a "runaway success" and "great for the environment." Only after Congress agreed to spend another $2 billion in taxpayer money on the program did the network begin to notice its flaws.

Here is a full transcript of the Thursday Evening News report:

6:39PM

JEFF GLOR: In other news tonight, the government said today the very popular Cash for Clunkers program is ending soon. The rebates designed to get gas guzzlers off the road and jump-start the U.S. auto industry will be closed now on Monday. But while car dealers took in the clunkers, Ben Tracy tells us tonight, many are still waiting for the cash.

DON MUSHIN: How’d you like the clunker program?

BEN TRACY: Don Mushin is the boss at this Los Angeles Toyota dealership, but these days he has a new title on his door.

MUSHIN: We normally sell about 300 cars a month. We’re on track this month to do about 600.

TRACY: Thanks to Cash for Clunkers, what could have been a dismal summer for car sales now has a Hollywood ending. Nationwide, more than 457,000 clunkers have been traded in for more fuel efficient models and a total of $1.9 billion in rebates. But now, the wildly successful program that provided up to $4500 per clunker is being scrapped. Yet, there have been problems. Dealers have to front the money for the rebates, sometimes to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the government has been slow to pay them back.

MUSHIN: Slow, I don’t think is the word.

TRACY: This dealership made 183 clunker deals, but has been reimbursed for just one. The government owes them $800,000. So Don and many other dealers are pulling out of the program early for fear of not getting paid. In fact, of the $1.9 billion in rebates dealers have paid out, the government has reimbursed them just $145 million.

RAY LAHOOD: They’re going to get their money. We have the money. Congress provided the money. They’re going to get their money.

TRACY: Major auto manufacturers want to keep sales going, so they are now loaning dealers money for the rebates. Don says he’s already done his part on the clunkers.

MUSHIN: Thank you to the government if I get paid.

TRACY: Now he wants his cash. Ben Tracy, CBS News, Los Angeles.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC