General Motors is paying dealers $7,000 for remaining Saturn and Pontiac models in what amounts to a sweetened incentive aimed at clearing inventories of the discontinued brands, company offices and dealers said Tuesday.
The plan, which is in effect through Monday, allows dealers to sell the remaining vehicles as used cars at whatever price they want, but any sales will count toward GM's December new vehicle sales numbers.
As of Nov. 30, Pontiac dealers had 8,500 vehicles in stock and Saturn dealers had 5,700 throughout the United States, said GM spokesman Tom Henderson.
While dealers were notified of the program earlier this month, publicizing it now will certainly stimulate year-end sales, but not necessarily at a profit.
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Jerry Seiner, a large GM dealer with two Pontiac showrooms in the Salt Lake City area, said his stock of Pontiacs is down to about 30 days' supply, which he is confident he can sell with or without the latest discount. He said current incentives of some Pontiac models have been running at as much as $6,500 before this program kicked in.
"The goal is to get those units out of inventory so we can move on," Seiner said. "With sadness, we're taking the Pontiac name off our license plate frames."
Such models as the Pontiac G3, G5, G6, G8, Solstice and Torrent, and Saturn Sky, Aura, Astra and Outlook will be classified as rental fleet vehicles. But buyers will still have new car warranty coverage, minus the miles they are driven before they are sold, Seiner said.
The program does not apply to Hummer or Saab vehicles.
The decision to discount Saturns and Pontiacs comes as GM closes down both brands under the Detroit automaker's restructuring plan. The shutdown of Pontiac was announced earlier in the year. GM announced this fall it would discontinue Saturn after a deal collapsed to sell the brand to Penske Automotive Group Inc.
Besides Pontiac and Saturn, GM is selling Hummer to a Chinese heavy equipment maker and is likely shuttering Swedish brand Saab. That will leave the automaker with four core brands: Buick, Chevrolet, GMC and Cadillac.
Sales of Saturn and Pontiac have declined sharply this year. Saturn sales have plunged 61.5 percent through November, according to Autodata Corp. Pontiac sales have slid 32.3 percent. GM's companywide decline is 31.8 percent.
With a $7,000 discount, the manufacturer's suggested price of Pontiac's cheapest vehicle, the G3 hatchback, falls to $7,335. The incentive brings Saturn's cheapest vehicle, the Astra compact car, to $9,495. Henderson, however, cautioned that the final price of the vehicles might be different.
GM's typical offers discounts that are much smaller. According to the auto research Web site Edmunds.com, GM's incentive spending in November totaled $4,270 per vehicle, on average.