August 15, 2009

Not much cash for Navajo clunkers

Cash for Clunkers not helping Natives

By Cindy YurthThere are several reasons why the program doesn't work well in these parts.

A big obstacle, said Sales Manager Mark Becker at Ed Corley Dodge, is that the vehicle taken as a trade-in has to be registered and insured.

"I have a lot of people come and tell me, 'I've got a clunker sitting in the front yard,'" Becker said. "Well, no, the program doesn't work that way. It's designed to get clunkers off the road, not out of people's yards."

Another problem is that the program requires buyers to trade for a vehicle that gets between two and four miles per gallon better gas mileage than their current vehicle, which generally means going for something smaller.

It's a concession most Navajos aren't willing to make, said Marty Menapace, sales manager at Rico Auto Complex, because they use their vehicles to haul water, hay and other heavy cargo.

"Our biggest seller is a half-ton pickup," Menapace said. "That's the way it's always going to be."

The only half-ton that qualifies under the program is the Dodge Ram 1500, which is what all three clunkers customers at Corley ended up buying, Becker said.

Also, while some city dwellers may be laboring under the misperception that the rez is overrun with clunkers, that's actually the furthest thing from the truth.

"The folks that are really making out under Cash for Clunkers are folks who have vehicles from the 1980s," Becker explained. "If you look around the reservation, there aren't too many cars that age, for the simple reason that driving on the reservation eats up cars pretty fast."
Below:  "A 1990 Jeep Cherokee that has seen better days now sits parked at the Ed Corleys Dodge Chrysler-Jeep parking lot in Gallup. The Jeep was traded in for a newer vehicle under the "Cash for Clunkers' program." (Special to the Navajo Times--Donovan Quintero)

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