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Car Rebate Scheme Splutters into Action

In January, Putin suggested moving the cash-for-clunkers start forward to coincide with International Women?€™s Day. Vladimir Filonov

The government's cash-for-clunkers program, which was slated to begin on March 8, International Women's Day, is suffering from a lack of clarity and poor timing, market participants said Tuesday.

"There are more questions than answers with this program," said Denis Smetanin, head of the sales development department at car dealer Avtomir. While some dealerships were able to trade vouchers for cars, some cannot even log into the Industry and Trade Ministry's server to obtain the information necessary to make the transactions.

"The mechanism for compensating dealers for their expenditures is still unclear," Smetanin said. "In some regions, dealers have to move the cars thousands of kilometers" to deliver them to recycling plants. As a result, some dealers have to spend far more than the 5,000 rubles ($168) per car promised by the government.

Moreover, the list of recycling centers inexplicably changed this week. "The four recyclers we started working with in Moscow and the Moscow region disappeared [from the list of approved recyclers] there is a new list of six recyclers now," he said. "Not all recyclers are ready."

Vtormet, a metal recycling company in Moscow, is ready, deputy director Yury Vorontsov said. "We have installed new equipment to drain oil and other liquids from cars," he said.

And while the program was supposed to begin on Monday, Vorontsov said no cars had been brought into his shop. Starting on a holiday was problematic to begin with, since the traffic police department that registers and deregisters cars does not work on holidays, he said.

META, a recycler in Chelyabinsk, received three cars on Tuesday, two of them dating from the 1970s, RIA-Novosti reported.

Phone calls to the Industry and Trade Ministry's press office went unanswered.

Industry and Trade Minister Viktor Khristenko said at a January meeting with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin that the ministry needed until March 15 to finalize the program.

"Why the 15th?" Putin asked. "Let's start with the 8th."

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