Macon car dealers feeling pinch

The proposed $14 billion government rescue plan might not have solved all the automobile industry's problems, but it could have jump-started lagging confidence among many consumers who — for now, at least — are not buying, area car dealers say.

"A lot of people are just on hold, waiting to see what will happen," said Kevin Franchi, general sales manager for Youmans Chevrolet in Macon.

Talks on the bailout collapsed in the Senate on Thursday night after the United Auto Workers refused to accede to Republican demands for swift wage cuts. It wasn’t immediately clear, however, how the auto aid measure might be resurrected.

The plan would have provided immediate loans to cash-strapped General Motors and Chrysler, while offering a line of credit to Ford.

"I can't see where it would hurt," said Mark Goodman, sales manager at Jerry Barker Chevrolet in Byron. "If it avoids the alternative, (an automaker) filing for bankruptcy, it will help. Customers have said they aren't going to want to buy from a bankrupt company."

Car dealers say they've seen sales slump since midyear, and Goodman blames a "multitude of problems," from this summer's skyrocketing gas prices to the Wall Street meltdown and ensuing credit crunch. Several local General Motors dealers reported decreases in sales of more than 40 percent since midyear.

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