AutoNation,the nation's largest auto dealership chain, said Saturday it hit the brakes on the popular Cash for Clunkers program three days early because it wants to make sure it can submit the paperwork on thousands of sales to the government before a Monday evening deadline.
Under the rebate program, dealerships need to enter their Cash for Clunkers sales into a government Web site before the program expires on Monday at 8 p.m. so they can be reimbursed for the rebates of up to $4,500.
Some dealerships have reported delays accessing the Web site, prompting some to pull out early to buy themselves more time.
Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based AutoNation decided on Thursday to make Friday night its cutoff, said spokesman Marc Cannon.
"We're going to leave some deals on the table, we know that," Cannon said. "We just thought it was a smart thing to do. It gives us 72 hours to get every deal processed."
Still, Cannon said the company is not "the least bit worried" about getting paid.
AutoNation, which has some 220 locations in 15 states, has sold 11,000 cars under the rebate program as of Thursday night, and estimates the government owes it $45 million, Cannon said.
The Toyota Corolla, Ford Focus and Escape, and Honda Civic and Fit, have been among the most popular models sold by AutoNation under Cash for Clunkers, he said.
The company had yet to tally Friday's sales. Dealerships stayed open through midnight to wrap up purchases by last-minute shoppers, Cannon said.
"We stopped offering it when the last customer left," he said.