Industry News & Trends

Auto Dealers Report Boost in Sales from Cash for Clunkers

Dealix conducts a nationwide survey tracking the activity dealers are seeing from Cash for Clunkers.

Guest Posting by Kevin Hunt

Earlier this week, Dealix conducted a nationwide survey to learn more about what activity dealers are seeing from Cash for Clunkers. Hundreds of dealers responded, and even though the rules about how the program will be administered won’t be issued until tomorrow (Friday, July 24), three out of ten dealers report having made a sale involving a “Cash for Clunkers” voucher.

Despite this early success, dealers expressed to us confusion and frustration over the lack of clarity provided so far around the program. In fact, almost 90% of dealers responding to the Dealix survey said consumers had either low or moderate awareness of the program, and two thirds (66%) said information given to dealers up until this point is “insufficient.”

Dealers Already Making Sales with Cash For Clunkers

Our survey showed a real bright spot for dealers. In addition to the 34% of respondents who said their dealership had made a sale involving a to-be issued voucher, dealers reported that the program has increased shopping activity and that auto buyer interest in the program is strong. We had 68% of the respondents report an increase in traffic to their showrooms, and 65% reported an increase in interest online, as demonstrated in more sales leads generated from their own and independent, or third party, websites.

This is an amazing sales opportunity. Although program max will be about 250,000 qualifying deals, the interest generated could translate into an increase of showroom traffic into the millions. Take full advantage of every lead it generates.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has noted several times that finalization of key elements of the bill – including how dealers will be authorized to issue vouchers, and how fuel-inefficient cars will be scrapped once exchanged for vouchers – would require time to finalize, and they have established July 24 as the target date to issue complete details. In the interim, the NHTSA has established a website – – to extend information and has paired with the North American Dealer Association (NADA) to conduct webinars about the program. We strongly recommend dealers frequent the site and get involved in as many educational opportunities as they can around the program. I also wanted to outline six key steps that we are advising dealers to take to get the most out of the CARS opportunity:

  1. Register & Get Certified if you haven’t already. Learn more on the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, or NHTSA, website
  2. Prepare and train all staff, including your service department to field inquiries. Set systems and procedures for qualifying and non-qualifying trades. also has a list of all eligible trade-ins at The dealers we surveyed believe information on the program has been insufficient for both consumers and for the dealer community. The majority – 90% – of respondents said that consumer understanding of the bill was either low (61%) or moderate (34%). So, be sure to educate your staff and look for every opportunity you can to educate your customers.
  3. Incorporate news about CARS into your advertising and marketing messages and create onsite excitement and atmosphere in your showrooms and through customer interaction. Make sure that customers know you are participating in the program and that they can come to you to cash in. Answer their questions, engage them in the discussion and use every department (sales, service, finance, etc) to do this.
  4. Continually update yourself on the program. To help dealers and consumers take advantage of the CARS program, Dealix publishes a blog entitled, and has also posted a recording of a recent webinar we hosted on the subject with, in addition to other materials, on The NHTSA, which will implement the program, is also regularly updating their website.
  5. Be Ready to Make Deals for Non-Qualifying Trades. Even if a customer’s car is not eligible, this is still a great sales opportunity. If they are reaching out to you, seize the opportunity to offer them a great deal and get them in a new or used vehicle outside of the program.
    • Have deals prepared to make the $3,500 offers they expected for aged Inventory or retired brands.
    • Be ready to evaluate many trades and balance with possible pre-owned inventory wish list.
  6. Review your lead supply! Make sure you are ready for this opportunity to pick up some market share.
    • Buyers who are trading in their old cars are likely to evaluate car brands they haven’t bought in the past. To do this research and to gain confidence in switching models, buyers will turn to “independent,” research-based, internet sites.
    • Ask yourself…are you partnering with a lead supplier who can get you access to the buyers on the most popular and trusted “independent” sites like Yahoo! Autos, MSN Autos, KBB, Edmunds, AOL Autos? These are sites that consumers will visit to learn more about new and different brands. Neither your own website nor your OEM’s site is likely to help you find the buyers most likely to consider your brand for the first time.

Good luck in making “Cash for Clunkers” a “More Cash for You” program!

About the Aurthor: Kevin Hunt is the Vice President of Sales for Dealix, a division of Cobalt. He can be reached at [email protected].

Here is one dealership that seems to be on top of this program.

Capitol Subaru

I think taking a proactive approach and getting out in front of this early will be a big money maker for some.
Looking for a backlink? Lol...
@Marc, I'm actually not over impressed with what Capitol Subaru has going on there. Not bad..but nothing persuasive about it, nothing that says..HEY, we are the Subaru Dealer for Cash for Clunkers.

Kevin, thanks for the guest posting. Lots of great information, unfortunately #1 Register & Get Certified has not proved to be so easy on the first day of open registration.
@Jeff, I see Capitol Subaru stepping it up a bit over time. But perhaps you have touched on the key point. Everyone is looking for a way to spin this into something "persuasive". When the real battle is just making the public aware of the program. I think customers will be looking to local dealers for answers about this program and not the government. So just have a comprehensive answer for your customers is a no-brainer in this market.
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  • August 7, 2009
As with most government programs, the success of the "cash for clunkers" program is not measured in how well the consequences of the program align with the stated goals of its advocates. Nor is it measured by any economic impacts the consequences might cause. Instead, just like the example of the public library in George Dance's recent article about Booze and books, the success is measured by participation or usage, not by any measure of the value provides or harm it does to our economy. The trick is to define the program specifically so that it has a known demand so the usage is high. Media spin and politics will make sure the right people hear the program was successful and beneficial. I heard a bit on NPR just today about the downstream benefits that recycling all these old cars has. Ridiculous of course, but the perception amongst the voters is far more important than the actual results and consequences. Certainly there will be follow-on programs, cash for major appliances, cash for tools, etc.