Letter To Ray LaHood, Secretary Of Transportation: Bachmann Demands Answers About “Cash for Clunkers” Program

Letter

By:  Michele Bachmann
Date: Aug. 24, 2009
Location: Washington, D.C.

<br>Letter To Ray LaHood, Secretary Of Transportation: Bachmann Demands Answers About “Cash for Clunkers” Program

U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann (MN-06), along with Rep. John Kline and Rep. Erik Paulsen, sent a letter last week to Secretary Ray LaHood asking him to help car dealers who have been frustrated by inconsistent protocols and administrative red tape in the “Cash for Clunkers” program, formally referred to as the Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS).

“Since the launch of CARS, we have heard from many automobile dealers in Minnesota who are confused about the program's operations and concerned about the lengthy delays they've experienced in obtaining transaction approvals from the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA),” wrote Bachmann. “While dealers have been working to secure as many transactions as possible, the serious uncertainties they face as a result of the administration of the program threaten their businesses -- businesses already struggling during this difficult economic time.”

The letter comes after many dealers reported inconsistent protocol regarding the application system, leading them to question the objectivity and administration of the program. Bachmann is requesting information regarding what documentation is required and a plan of action from the NHTSA to increase the efficiency of the application process.

“Dealers are growing more and more frustrated. It appears to them that each claim is treated with a different level of scrutiny and different documentation requirements,” Bachmann continued. “Our dealers need better guidance and more consistency in what constitutes a complete CARS application and we look forward to working with you to achieve that goal.”

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Text of letter below:

Dear Secretary LaHood,

We first want to thank you for your responsiveness to our constituents' concerns over the past several months. We write to you today to ask for your assistance with concerns we're hearing about the administration of the CARS (Car Allowance Rebate System) program.

Since the launch of CARS, we have heard from many automobile dealers in Minnesota who are confused about the program's operations and concerned about the lengthy delays they've experienced in obtaining transaction approvals from the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). While dealers have been working to secure as many transactions as possible, the serious uncertainties they face as a result of the administration of the program threaten their businesses -- businesses already struggling during this difficult economic time. We would appreciate your prompt response to the questions in this letter so that our constituents can get the answers they need.

Many dealers have reported inconsistent NHTSA protocol regarding the resubmission of CARS applications that have been rejected based on technicalities. What steps are you taking to provide uniform and coherent instructions to dealers to minimize these technical rejections which only result in further delays for dealers? One Minnesota dealer reported submitting 54 applications with only 3 accepted. The analysis for approval should be essentially objective, based largely on age of the car and gas mileage. This slow rate for approvals means that there is another problem.

Furthermore, we have been told that there is substantial confusion among dealers about what documentation the NHTSA will accept to prove continuous registration for Minnesota drivers. We understand that the Minnesota Motor Vehicle Registrar, through the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA), forwarded NHTSA the enclosed document as a sample for what should constitute continuous registration for a Minnesota “clunker” transaction.

However, while many Minnesota transactions have been submitted and approved with this type of registration documentation, others have been rejected with similar paperwork. Will you please confirm whether this documentation is sufficient to prove both current registration and continuity of registration in Minnesota? If it is not, what registration documentation should dealers submit? Can you please respond with clear guidance on this issue?

Dealers are growing more and more frustrated. It appears to them that each claim is treated with a different level of scrutiny and different documentation requirements. In fact, dealers have so little clarity from NHTSA that the Minnesota Automobile Dealers Association (MADA) plans to meet this week to trade experiences and share with one another what works and what doesn't when submitting an application to the CARS program. We applaud them for their initiative and creative response, but this wouldn't be necessary if dealers received faster, clearer and more uniform answers directly from your agency.

We appreciate your consideration of these concerns. Our dealers need better guidance and more consistency in what constitutes a complete CARS application and we look forward to working with you to achieve that goal.