It's been a fun ride, hasn't it? The federal government's Cash for Clunkers program began with a bang on July 24th and, despite the original plan having it last until Labor Day, will officially end next Monday night (August 24th) at 8PM. The end date was announced today by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and takes into account what he calls conservative sales estimates that have the pot running dry sometime over the weekend.

As of today, C4C has recorded 457,476 sales worth $1.91 billion in rebates. The feds estimate about $400 million worth of rebates have yet to be submitted and are reserving another $100 million for administrative costs. That leaves $600 million left for what should be a very busy weekend on dealer lots.

Despite being a logistical mess, no can argue that C4C did exactly what it was designed to do: sell cars. Throughout the program's short life span, however, dealers were either ecstatic over the amount of metal they were moving or angry that their applications for reimbursement were either being rejected or not approved fast enough by the government.

Come September 1st, we expect the industry to report sales increases across the board. The real question is what happens on October 1st when they must report the first full month of sales after Cash for Clunkers. How far will sales fall without the government's gracious incentives? Stay tuned and we'll let you know.

[Source: Detroit News | Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty]

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