‘Business as usual’ for local dealerships

Published 5:55 pm Monday, June 1, 2009

In spite of rampant rumors and the reality of the largest industrial company bankruptcy in U.S. history taking place this week, two local car dealerships say they are not ready to throw in the towel.

On Monday, General Motors filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, under a restructuring plan that gives the U.S. government a 60 percent controlling stake in what was formerly the world’s largest automaker.

An additional 12.5 percent would be under Canadian government ownership.

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The smaller, more streamlined GM will be focused on four brands: Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac and GMC. Familiar names such as Pontiac, Saturn, Hummer and Saab will be discontinued.

At Greenville Motor Company, manager Ken Gibson says it is still “business as usual.”

“We still offer our full warranties and will continue to offer incentives and rebates for customers,” he said.

Gibson said new Chevrolets, including the latest Camaro, the Cruz, Equinox and the Volt are on their way to the dealership.

“And (the bankruptcy) doesn’t affect our used car business or service department at all. Our doors are definitely still open and we are here to take care of our customers,” Gibson said.

Greenville Motor Co. was notified by Chrysler in early May 2009 its franchise agreement had been rejected. The local dealership carries Chrysler, Plymouth, Dodge, Jeep and Chevrolet vehicles.

While GM did not terminate their franchise agreement with Greenville Motor Co., they did do so with the only other new car dealership in town, Norman-Blackmon Motor Co. Norman-Blackmon’s contractual agreement with GM is due to expire in October 2010.

“We knew the GM bankruptcy was also coming, so it’s no surprise,” said owner Todd Norman.

“It doesn’t do us any good, but I do hope it will stabilize things for the car business in general. I am glad to hear Ken and his folks are going to keep their dealership open so people have a place here to buy new vehicles and get them serviced.”

Norman said if things go as planned, they will continue to keep their service department open past October 2010 and sell used vehicles.

In Monday’s presidential address, Obama said taking the route of governmental intervention was due to “a financial crisis unseen in our time . . . forcing steps we would not otherwise have considered.”

The president also said there would be more “hard times” – additional plant closings, layoffs, dealership closings – to ensure the next generation “can grow up in an America where we still build things.”

Gibson says he is remaining upbeat about the dealership’s future.

“Next year we will be celebrating 80 years in the car business,” Gibson said. “That is something we are really looking forward to.”