Three years after spinning off GMAC, with which it pioneered captive auto financing, General Motors may be considering a return to in-house finance. Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports that:
GM may buy back the GMAC business, start a new finance unit or form a partnership with banks and other lenders, said the people, who asked not to be identified because details are private. Chief Executive Officer Ed Whitacre wants to form an in-house lender before selling shares in GM as soon as the fourth quarter, one person said.
GMAC has received $17.2b in TARP aid, but recently announced a$172m Q1 profit despite concern over its bailout in congress. GM’s previous experience with in-house lending has been decidedly mixed: though GMAC was long a cash-cow for the automaker, the easy financing cashflow is said to have enabled a culture of apathy towards product development. When the credit market collapsed, GMAC went down like a ton of bricks… and would have taken GM (even further) down with it, had Rick Wagoner not spun it off and sold it to keep the lights on a little longer. In the short term, a captive finance unit might help a GM IPO, but the potential for falling back into old bad habits can’t be ignored.
“I don’t see anyone bleeding to death,” Sergio Marchionne told reporters and analysts a week ago, when asked what he thought of Chrysler’s current dealer body. He might be about to change his tune. The US Treasury will stop guaranteeing GMAC’s floorplan loans to Chrysler Group dealers on the 21st of this month, and the bailed-out lender has marked over 100 dealers to be cut off. According to the Detroit Free Press, these dealers had all survived Chrysler’s dealer consolidation efforts in bankruptcy, indicating that their sales business is relatively steady. But because of huge investments made with Chrysler Financial loans at the height of the real estate market, these dealers owe more than their dealerships are worth. Chrysler Financial is winding down its business, and it refuses to give up the first right to the property as collateral. Because GMAC is now a bank holding company and requires more collateral on loans than it previously did, it wants land and buildings put up as collateral that are already securing old Chrysler Financial loans. Of course those old loans were for renovations made as part of Chrysler’s “Project Genesis,” which dealers had little choice but to participate in. If those Chrysler-mandated investments meant certain dealers were not going to qualify for floorplanning, they should have been culled during bankruptcy. Which is why NADA is appealing to Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne on behalf of the threatened dealers. And maybe if Marchionne takes a look into this meatgrinder, he’ll see a few dealers stuck between giant, bailed-out businesses, bleeding to death.