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Clunker program hailed as a hit

The Cash for Clunkers program, or Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS), has been parked for good and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has judged it to be a "wild success."

It was also a wild success for some local dealers.

Bruce Wiitanen, vice president of Juettner Motors in Alexandria, said, "In terms of selling cars, the program was very successful. We sold basically all of our qualifying inventory."

Juettner Motors sold about 30 cars while the program was running.

Wiitanen noted that the Ford Fusion, Ford Escape, Ford Focus and the Dodge Caliber were particularly popular models with customers.

The most common "clunker" that the dealership saw was the Ford Explorer.

Bill Nettleton, owner of Alexandria Motors, also reported that he had sold his entire eligible inventory, about 35 cars.

Nettleton said that the most popular cars in his showroom were the Chevy Aveo and the Chevy Cobalt.

Though the program was good at selling cars, the paperwork continues to be a large source of frustration for dealers.

"We have had orders in the government system for a month." Wiitanen said. "The turnaround time was supposed to be six to 10 days."

Wiitanen also stated that his dealership had continuous problems with the website.

The computer system was such an issue that the government had to extend the filing deadline for dealers - twice.

Only 12 states requested larger voucher dollar amounts than Minnesota in a list that included Puerto Rico, Guam, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands. California requested the most voucher dollars.

Nationwide, the Toyota Corolla was the most popular new vehicle among customers. The most popular "clunker" was the four-wheel drive Ford Explorer.

According to the White House, the program is supposed to create or save 42,000 jobs in the second half of 2009, and boost economic growth in the third quarter of 2009 by 0.3-0.4 percentage points at an annual rate, thanks to increased auto sales in July and August.

LaHood said that the program was a "win for the economy, a win for the environment and a win for American consumers."