'Business as usual' for local dealersGM dealers in southwestern North Dakota have been reassuring customers that business will remain the same since General Motors declared bankruptcy Monday.
By: John Odermann, The Dickinson Press
GM dealers in southwestern North Dakota have been reassuring customers that business will remain the same since General Motors declared bankruptcy Monday.
Dean Bender, owner of Dean Bender Chevrolet in Killdeer, said he’s been busy assuring his customers that they won’t be closing and the service will remain the same.
“We’re just telling them that as far as we’re concerned it’s still business as usual,” Bender said.
D.J. Charbonneau, co-owner of Charbonneau Car Center in Dickinson said he too has spent time reassuring customers.
Several customers have asked, “What happens if GM goes bankrupt? What happens if they go broke?” Charbonneau said. “I’ve told them that the government is already saying that they’re going to back the warranties.”
GM’s bankruptcy filing is the fourth-largest in U.S. history and the largest for an industrial company, The Associated Press reported Tuesday. The company said it has $172.81 billion in debt and $82.29 billion in assets.
The U.S. government now holds a 60 percent equity share in the company.
Gov. John Hoeven, R-N.D., called on President Barack Obama to stop the forced closing of GM dealers in rural areas, according to a press release Tuesday.
“Efforts by GM and Chrysler to reduce their dealership rosters by closing rural dealerships will cause financial harm to GM and Chrysler and will cause unnecessary hardship for thousands of workers, their families and their communities,” Hoeven said.
Though Bender and Charbonneau have received notice that their dealerships will not be closing, there are still concerns.
Bender doesn’t think Obama’s call for more fuel efficiency and smaller cars will fly in southwestern North Dakota.
“That’s not an answer for this area. Maybe in your metropolitan areas, but with the roads and the snow and the conditions we have here in North Dakota and Montana and this area, small cars just aren’t selling,” Bender said. “The pickup market is going to have to stay.”
Small cars don’t sell very well in the area, Bender said, pointing to several Chevy Cobalts he has in stock as an example.
“I just don’t see how General Motors can go to making all small cars, all small vehicles that get great gas mileage,” Charbonneau said. “I honestly feel that if that’s the case, that’s going to hurt them more than it’s going to help them.”
Bender and Charbonneau said they were able to sell plenty of pickups even when gas prices were more than $4.50 a gallon last year.
“People just found a way to compensate,” Charbonneau said. “Maybe they went on less trips, maybe they did whatever, but those vehicles still sold.”
After strong sales in May, Bender said he isn’t too worried about the future and he believes GM will weather the storm.
“We’re sitting pretty good so I don’t think there’s going to be a problem for us,” Bender said. “GM will come out of this stronger and we’ll be around for a long, long time.”
Calls to Sax Motor Co., a Chevrolet dealership in Dickinson, were not returned by press time.