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Last call for Saturn and Pontiac

GM offers several incentives to rid itself of the last of these cars, but which is better for consumers?

By Karen Datko Dec 30, 2009 4:37PM

Anxious to retire two unwanted brands, a leaner and meaner post-bankruptcy General Motors is offering another major incentive to dealers to sell off all remaining Saturns and Pontiacs.

 

The Wall Street Journal called it a fire sale: You could get a car for up to 46% off. There were only 5,700 brand-new Saturns and 8,500 Pontiacs left on Dec. 1, and GM wants them to go fast -- off the showroom floor.

 

But is this a sweeter deal than the $6,500 rebate dealers have been advertising for these cars? Before you decide, consider these factors first:

  • GM is offering a $7,000 incentive for each Saturn and Pontiac a dealership moves to its rental or service fleet by Jan. 4. That means the dealer becomes the car’s first owner. If you buy that car, it will be “used,” even if it never left the lot.
  • Buying a used car likely means you’ll pay a higher interest rate if you finance the purchase. Also, the resale value will drop. 
  • Because the car is considered used, you won’t be eligible for the $6,500 cash back, or 0% financing for up to six years, that GM is advertising for “new” Saturns and Pontiacs sold through Jan. 4.

According to BNET, industry analyst Jessica Caldwell of Edmunds.com said, “This program is more hype than substance. There is no benefit for the consumer to purchase a used vehicle when a new vehicle can be had for a similar price.”

 

On the other hand, this still could be a good deal. The dealer may pass the entire $7,000 incentive on to you. And if you pay cash, the issue of financing is moot.

Also, buying an “orphan,” not technically new car seems more like a psychological adjustment than a real problem  -- particularly if you plan to drive the car until it dies of old age. GM will honor the remaining warranty.

 

If we were in the market for a new car, we’d check out deals on both new and "used" cars. Jon Bresson, sales manager of Saturn of the Valley in Los Angeles, told USA Today that the $7,000 incentive gives dealerships another tool to tailor a deal to a buyer’s circumstances. "We will take a look at both programs and see which works best for them," he said.

 

Here's another plus: If you dawdle and miss out on the $6,500 cash back offer good through Jan. 4, any Saturns and Pontiacs moved to the dealer fleets will still be available for sale after that -- if there are any left.

Autoblog practically snickered at the thought of buying a Pontiac G3 -- discounted or otherwise, it seems -- but added, “A more compelling deal could be $7,000 off the price of a Saturn Astra. Getting a brand-new Astra with tons of options and a $13,000 price tag could be considered a steal.”

 

Related reading:

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