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Kai Ryssdal: On the topic of economic growth, there apparently is some in Detroit. GM, Ford and Chrysler all posted November sales numbers this morning that were better than expected. Toyota did too, all of which suggests Americans are in a car-buying mood again. We can say that because sales last month had nothing to do with Cash for Clunkers; it ended back in August.
But if Cash for Clunkers did help unblock one part of the car business, it has done gone and clogged up another. Recyclers who were given the job of scrapping all those clunkers have more business now than they know what to do with. Originally they were given six months to junk all those cars. Now they say they need an extra three months to get over the crunch period. Marketplace’s Alisa Roth reports.
ALISA ROTH: When Cash for Clunkers was at full throttle, dealers could hardly keep new cars on their lots. The scrappers had the opposite problem.
ANDREW ADLEN: We had cars in our parking lots, we had cars on trailers, we had cars everywhere.
Andrew Adlen manages Aadlen Brothers Auto Wrecking. It’s just north of Los Angeles.
ADLEN: We had cars stacked on top of cars. It was a big mess.
His company buys used cars from dealers. They sell whatever parts they can to the public. They crush the rest and sell it for scrap.
Things have settled down a bit for Aadlen Brothers. But they still have a salvage yard full of clunkers that have to be processed in the next few months.
Adlen says if they don’t get more time, they’ll lose money. Because they’ll have to crush the cars before they can sell the parts.
Michael Wilson is with the Automotive Recyclers Association. He says processing all those clunkers at once could distort the market for parts and for scrap metal.
MICHAEL WILSON: All this metal going through the marketplace within a two- or four-week time period that could adversely affect the markets having a glut of that metal coming through all at one time.
It’s not just the market though. It’s jobs. Andrew Adlen says thanks to Cash for Clunkers, he hired 20 more people. If the deadline isn’t extended, he might have to lay people off.
ADLEN: Being able to process the cars at our pace might actually extend the amount we can keep employees, the amount of parts sales, it would extend everything.
The Transportation Department is expected to make a decision on the rule by February 1st, which is also the deadline for the first clunkers to be scrapped.
I’m Alisa Roth for Marketplace.
Ryssdal: One more word about cars this afternoon. Two words, actually. Fritz Henderson. GM announced late today that Henderson is leaving as CEO. No indication of whether it’s his decision or the board’s. In his eight months running the company, he did get a lot of praise for making a lot of the tough decisions his predecessor Rick Wagoner didn’t.