Dealers: Little to change
GM sellers say nothing to fear from bankruptcy

LAWRENCEVILLE - General Motors Corp. may have officially filed for bankruptcy protection Monday, but it was business as usual for some of the local dealerships that sell its vehicles.

Those dealers said that's how they expect things to be at their dealerships as GM tries to emerge leaner and meaner.

Rick Hendrick's Chevrolet, with stores in both Duluth and Buford, is one of those dealerships.

"Hendrick Automotive Group can say with confidence that the customers of our 27 GM franchises can expect the same high level of care and service that our dealerships have always provided, and that the full range of warranties and parts will be available," Rick Hendrick said. "The products GM offers are the highest quality and most fuel efficient in its history, and I have an unwavering faith in the company's leadership team and our government's commitment to support this reorganization."

Lou Sobh, owner of the Lou Sobh Pontiac Buick GMC dealership on Pleasant Hill Road in Duluth, echoed those sentiments.

"Today's action will have no impact on us," Sobh said. "It's really like anyone else's Chapter 11. ... The Duluth store will stay open as long as it remains profitable."

Sobh said the Duluth location is the No. 2 GM performing dealership in Georgia and one of the top 50 in the country.

"The U.S. government is backing GM now," he said. "And backing the warranties."

Gregory Baranco, owner of the Baranco Buick Pontiac GMC store in Lilburn, had a similar take.

"As far as the warranties and financing go it's business as usual," Baranco said. "But we're hopeful that when the new GM emerges it's more competitive with more great products than ever before."

Baranco did acknowledge GM's financial woes have taken a toll on his business lately, even if only slightly.

"Anytime you mention the word 'bankruptcy' it has an effect," he said. "But I think the restructuring will make GM more competitive and that loyal GM customers will continue to seek out their products."

The carmaker's CEO, Fritz Henderson, said at a news conference in New York, "This new GM will be built from the strongest parts of our business, including our best brands and products.'

Sobh said that means Buick will be expanded and Pontiac will be phased out.

"One of GM's problems has been too many brands," he said.

Sobh, who last year had to shutter his GM Saturn dealership (also on Pleasant Hill Road), said he doesn't know what will happen to the Saturn and Hummer brands.

"We really have no idea what else is going on," he said.

GM's Chapter 11 filing was the largest ever recorded in the U.S. by an industrial company.

President Barack Obama said Monday the federal government will act as 'reluctant shareholder' when it assumes a 60 percent ownership of the smaller carmaker that emerges.

The president said he hopes GM would emerge quickly from bankruptcy court, and pledged up to $30 billion in additional federal assistance to help it get on its feet.

Obama said the coming restructuring will "take a painful toll on many Americans.' GM announced during the day that it would permanently close nine more plants and idle three others, steps affecting as many as 20,000 workers. GM has also disclosed plans to shutter about 1,100.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.