…Cash for Clunkers Close to Cashing Out!<!--:-->

AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY NEWS: …Cash for Clunkers Close to Cashing Out!

The U.S. Department of Transportation reports 70% of the vouchers from this summer’s “Cash for Clunkers” incentive have been paid to dealers. USDOT Secretary Ray LaHood says 565,690 of some 700,000 sales vouchers have been paid to dealers. The figure represents $2.4 billion paid or in the pipeline to dealers from the $2.9 billion Car Allowance and Rebate System program, which ended Aug. 26.

Although wildly successful in spurring vehicle sales and removing a portion of gas-guzzlers from U.S. roadways, the program received much criticism. Government computer servers proved unable to handle the volume of voucher submissions and repeatedly crashed.

Dealers also complained over the pace of voucher paybacks – they covered a cash incentive of up to $4,500, as well as disposal of the clunker, ahead of repayment from the government – fearing responsibility for hundreds of thousands of dollars paid to customers.

Dealers across the country are reporting that they experienced one of the busiest summers in recent memory thanks to the boost in sales prompted by the clunkers program.

Tesla Model S Electric Car

Tesla Motors is now taking orders for the Model S, an all electric family sedan that carries seven people and travels 300 miles per charge. The standard Model S makes 0-60 mph in under 6 seconds and will have an electronically limited top speed of 130 mph. The Model S carries its charger onboard and can be recharged from any 120V, 240V or 480V outlet, with the latter taking only 45 minutes. Moreover, the floor-mounted battery pack is designed to be changed out in less time than it takes to fill a gas tank, allowing for the possibility of battery-pack swap stations. Tesla expects to start Model S production in late 2011 with anticipated base price of $49,900 after a federal tax credit of $7,500.

House OKs green vehicle research bill

Washington — The U.S. House overwhelmingly approved a bill Wednesday to boost government funding for green vehicle research — the latest effort by Congress to aid the struggling auto industry.

The House voted 312-114 for the measure that authorizes $2.9 billion over five years, including $550 million in the budget year starting Oct. 1 for the Energy Department to research and develop advanced technology vehicle and components.

That’s a more than $200 million more than the current yearly vehicle research budget.

After authorizing funding, Congress must still separately allocate the funds. The Senate must also approve the authorization bill.