Clovis News

Valley GM dealers wonder: What's next?

Local General Motors dealers are trying to figure out what fallout the automaker's bankruptcy Monday holds for their stores.

"The [federal] government is in control, ... and we just have to take instructions as they happen," said Don Bonander, owner of Madera's Vintage Buick Pontiac Cadillac GMC.

Bonander, a car dealer for nearly 50 years, has seen such upheaval before. He sold Studebakers before that company went defunct in the mid-1960s.

But this time around, "the market isn't making the decisions whether we live or die," he said. "It's a bunch of people with different agendas."

Bill Hedrick, owner of Hedrick's Chevrolet in Clovis, is more optimistic.

"I look at it as a real positive, because this allows GM to get their medical, wage and benefit costs in line," he said. With GM plants closed for a couple of months, he added, "it takes a load off dealers who have a lot of vehicles in stock."

Hedrick said he is hopeful that a "new" and stronger GM will emerge from bankruptcy.

Last month, GM notified about 1,100 dealers that their franchise agreements would not be renewed when they expire over the next 18 months.

Only one Valley dealer acknowledged being on GM's hit list, but Firebaugh Chevrolet owner Michael Santos doesn't know whether the bankruptcy will alter his store's fate.

"Who even knows if GM is going to be around in 18 months?" Santos said. "Do you want to be doing business with a company that's bankrupt?"

GM's bankruptcy filing Monday was long expected by Valley auto industry insiders.

"It's a sad day for America, but I guess it was inevitable," said Mark Rapin, head of the Fresno-Clovis New Car Dealers Association and vice president of Fresno's Freedom Ford. "I think the GM dealers are disappointed, but not surprised because this dragged on for several months."