Local dealers shrug off latest news from GM

BRADENTON — As General Motors Corp. filed for bankruptcy protection Monday, car dealers in Manatee said they are concentrating on their own viability.

“It’s not going to affect us probably one way or another,” said Red Hoagland, owner of Red Hoagland GMC Pontiac in Bradenton. “I’m glad they’re going into bankruptcy. Uncertainty is hurting us. They’ve been broke for a long time, they just made it legal.”

Local used car dealers are hoping the bankruptcy filings of GM and Chrysler, filed April 30, might bring in consumers reluctant to shop GM and Chrysler. So far, they haven’t seen any effect.

“Business is rotten as usual,” said Don Evans, owner of El Cheapo Rides. A Scottish Terrier sat in a vacant seat across from his desk. “That’s just the economy in general.”

Some used-car dealers say the economy actually is bringing them consumers who need to ditch their newer vehicles for older ones to eliminate car payments.

“The only thing we see is people coming in with late-model cars because they can’t make their payments anymore,” said Dave Lamont, co-owner of D&L Automotive Inc., 3710 14th St. W. “They’re turning in Fords, GMs, all different manufacturers. It seems to me more people have to buy used cars because they can’t afford late models.”

GM also announced it will permanently close nine more manufacturing plants, bringing the automaker’s factory count to 34 by the end of 2010, compared with 47 at the end of 2008. It also plans to cut 40 percent of its dealerships.

Evans doesn’t believe the production cut would bring him any more consumers.

“Even though Chrysler and GM are going bankrupt, they’re not going away,” Evans said. “They’re still going to make cars, either under a new holder or somebody else.”

Like D&L Automotive, El Cheapo Rides is focused on turning sales for consumers who need to get out of a car payment.

“I have people saying, ‘Do you have something I can buy cheap because I’ve got to get rid of my car payment?’ ” Evans said. “I’m seeing more of that than all of my 32 years here.”

Donna Trappaso, owner of Manatee Motor Mart on Ninth Street West in Bradenton, said she isn’t worried about the impact of the bankruptcy. She’ll still buy GM cars to place for sale on her lot.

“They’ll be OK. They’ll work their way out of it, just like Chrysler,” Trappaso said. “As far as going to (wholesale) sales and purchasing Buicks and Cadillacs, I don’t have any problem doing that. There are still going to be auto stores with parts to repair them.”

Just down the street from Trappaso, Ben Shives, owner of Ben Shives Truck Super Center, said he believes the GM bankruptcy could actually improve sales of the brand.

“I don’t think it’s going to mean a whole lot,” Shives said. “When Chrysler filed bankruptcy, the Chrysler products I thought would drop in value for a short time and then maybe bounce back, actually the prices went up that week because they announced their bankruptcy.

“Dealers I’ve talked to, their sales actually increased because people thought they were going to get a deal.” — The Associated Press contributed to this report.