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CARS program takes off in Saratoga

Dealerships stand to benefit as well by getting a hand in moving a product that has been notoriously difficult to sell in recent months.

But while the program has undoubtedly increased showroom traffic, many dealers have complaints about its execution.

"Whoever is administering the program, it's an absolute disaster," said Tim Higgins, owner of Saratoga Honda, where 23 clunkers have been taken in.

Dealers have to be approved for the program before receiving access to the Web site. Even then, said Higgins, his staff sat on hold for three days when the login didn't work. He eventually found a solution without ever talking to a CARS representative.

Dealers get to keep $50 for administrative expenses when they send to clunkers to an authorized salvage yard to be crushed, as required by the program.

"Dealers are doing crazy things to have to participate in this program. Fifty dollars doesn't come close to compensating for the aggravation," said Higgins.

And consumers with clunkers can also look forward to extra paperwork before their rebate can be applied, which turns into more administrative tasks for dealers once the cars leave the lot.

"How can I put this tactfully?" said Nissan Saratoga Sales Manager Joe DiCarmine. "It requires a lot of attention to detail."

Still, for car buyers, the paperwork might seem like a small obstacle in light of the savings. On top of factory incentives, consumers could stand to knock a full third or more off the price of a new car, noted DiCarmine, who said his dealership has taken in about 30 clunkers.

"Obviously, the rebates have generated a lot of activity," he said. "It's an unprecedented opportunity to get assistance from the government to buy automobiles."

None of the dealerships The Spotlight spoke with said they had received compensation from the government yet.

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