There is a pretty good chance cashed-in clunkers will wind up back on the road, in bits and pieces. Now that the federal cash is flowing on sales incentives of up to $4,500 per trade-in, area dealers say they are working to get remaining “clunkers” off the lots and into the salvage and recycling business.

There is a pretty good chance cashed-in clunkers will wind up back on the road, in bits and pieces.


Now that the federal cash is flowing on sales incentives of up to $4,500 per trade-in, area dealers say they are working to get remaining “clunkers” off the lots and into the salvage and recycling business.


A total of $3 billion worth of rebates were authorized by Congress for the program, which expired Aug. 24. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimated last week about $2.8 billion of the $3 billion has been approved.


“We really started getting the money in about the first of September,” said Todd Green, owner of Green Automotive Group in Springfield.


He estimated the network of dealerships had as many as a couple of hundred clunkers at individual locations at one time, adding that another round of 60 or so were scheduled for pickup Thursday, weather permitting.


Many of the vehicles are headed for one of the region’s largest salvage and shredder operations in Peoria, where a local executive said most of the approximately 4,000 pounds of steel, copper, brass, aluminum, plastic and electronics can be reused.


“We shred it into pieces about the size of your fist. We can take a normal auto and shred it in about 20 seconds,” said Dave Rumer, president of Behr & Sons Inc. salvage and shredding operation in Peoria. The Rockford-based parent company has 13 facilities in Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana and Iowa.


“People don’t realize that iron and steel are the most recycled commodities,” said Rumer, who added that some recycled materials eventually wind up back in auto production.


He said it also is a sign of just how tough the auto market has been in the past year that an influx of clunkers has not significantly increased shredding volume, which is running at 500 to 700 tons of scrap a day for all metals, including cars.


“It’s an increase over the business we were doing, but it’s still not as much as the last couple of years. It’s down quite a bit,” said Rumer.


The sudden availability of hundreds of junk vehicles also touched off a bidding war among salvage yards that made it difficult for smaller operators to get a piece of the business, said Jim Farley of the family-owned Farley Towing & Auto Salvage in Springfield.


“I called around to all the dealers I knew of, and they weren’t interested. They all said they already had someone,” said Farley, who added that scrap metal sells for about $100 a ton.


General manager and vice president Scott Sables of Giuffre Buick in Springfield said some still-useable vehicles went to the shredder as a result of cash for clunkers.


“There was an ’87 with 67,000 miles, no rust, perfect-condition Suburban GMC. I broke my heart. I’m kind of an old-car guy, and there was still a lot of value there, maybe for a church or not-for-profit for transporting goods,” he said.


Tim Landis can be reached at (217) 788-1536 or tim.landis@sj-r.com.