The US Department of Transportation has now said it would extend its final deadline for dealers to submit ‘cash for clunkers’ rebate claims until 8pm EDT Tuesday evening (1.00am BST Wednesday).


The US government had yesterday extended by a day – to noon US EDT today (5pm BST) – the deadline for car dealers to file paperwork for ‘cash for clunkers’ deals, but all showroom sales had to be completed by 8pm Monday night, as planned.


The dealer portion of the CARS.gov website had experienced problems since last Thursday, but was functional as of 9:30am (2:30pm BST) Tuesday morning, the American International Automobile Dealers Association (AIADA) said in an email.


Transportation spokeswoman Jill Zuckman said on Monday night that the deadline would be extended a second time, although at the time she didn’t specify a particular deadline, and said it depended on how long it would take the government to get the clunkers web site up so that dealers could file claims.


AIADA said the latest glitch, which began around 11:30am Monday morning, has made it nearly impossible for dealers to submit deals for reimbursement on what was slated to be the final day of the four week programme.


The Monday 8pm EDT deadline for consumers to make qualifying purchases at dealerships passed without being extended, AIADA noted.


Meanwhile, The Detroit News said Toyota was the ‘clunker’ replacement leader, accounting for 19.2% of vehicles sold under the US$3bn taxpayer-funded scheme.


The Corolla was the top-selling vehicle followed by the Honda Civic, Ford Focus FWD and Toyota Camry. The Hyundai Elantra jumped to the top five for the first time as the Toyota Prius fell to sixth. Rounding out the top 10 were the Nissan Versa, Ford Escape FWD, Honda Fit [Jazz] and Honda CR-V 4WD.


The Transportation Department said 54% of the top 10 clunker replacement vehicles were manufactured in the US and hybrid vehicles accounted for 4.5% of new vehicles purchased under the program compared to 3% of June’s new vehicle sales.


The “clunkers” incentive offered consumers up to $4,500 to trade in older vehicles for more fuel efficient new ones. The first $1bn in rebates was exhausted within  a week while a follow-up injection of $2 billion at the start of the month was nearly all gone, Transportation Department figures showed yesterday.


US TV news broadcasts at the weekend showed packed showrooms as buyers scrambled to secure remaining ‘clunker’ funds. Dealers appeared happy at the volume boost – the scheme has been credited with over 450,000 sales – but concerned at cashflow issues caused by the slow government reimbursement rate.