The Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS), or “Cash for Clunkers” initiative, has made an immediate impact for thousands of car dealerships throughout the country, including three in Brown County.

“It has definitely created a frenzy of excitement,” said John Stanley, new car sales manager for General Motors at Bruner Auto Group. “Our phones have been constantly ringing and people visiting the lot to see if they qualify.”

The program offers vouchers of $3,500 or $4,500 to vehicle owners, if they qualify, to trade-in cars for new, more fuel efficient vehicles.

“Driving a vehicle that receives better mileage is one of the reasons that the idea of this program is great,” said Robert Divin, general manager of Stanley Dodge. “It is better for the environment.”

Mauri Peyton, owner of Big Country Ford, said the individual dealerships are not responsible for deciding the value of the trade-in.

“The government dictates how much the consumer will receive on their old vehicle or if they will receive any at all,” Peyton said. “It is (the government’s) baby.”

Divin, Peyton and Stanley all agree that educating a prospective buyer is part of the process.

“There is some confusion because of the guidelines that have been set,” Divin said.

“A lot of people don’t understand the rules,” Peyton said. “So, sitting with someone who is interested requires being able to explain if they qualify. We are here to help in that case.”

Stanley said visiting www.cars.gov is a useful tool that vehicle owners may access.

“Going to the site will help a buyer understand if they qualify and what they qualify for,” Stanley said.

In order for a buyer to see if they qualify for the rebate, they must have pertinent information relating to their current vehicle, as well as the vehicle they are looking to purchase, Divin said.

“You can’t just go on the site, give the information about your car and find out if you will receive the $3,500 or $4,500,” Divin said. “The program also requires that you have a car in mind and be able to give information on that vehicle. At that point, you will find out if you qualify, and, if you do, for how much.”

Even with qualifying for one of the rebates, prospective buyers, who are not purchasing outright, must still qualify for financing, Stanley said.

“If there is an outstanding balance after being approved for the rebate, the buyer is still going to need go through the loan application process — unless they are going to pay in full,” Stanley said.

The dealers, who have sold a combined 40 vehicles in the last week, agree the program is beneficial.

“The idea of the program is great,” Divin said. “It stimulates the economy and gets dealers back selling cars.”

“It has increased our sales by more than 20 percent,” Stanley said. “Plus, it puts new cars within reach to those who may not have been that close before.”

“I would say it is a positive thing,” Peyton said.

“Cash for Clunkers,” which officially began July 24, has already gone through $1 billion. Friday, the House of Representatives voted 316-109 to add $2 billion to the program, which was designed to boost U.S. auto sales.

For more information and guidelines, visit www.cars.gov or www.ford.com.