General Motors may lose as many as 40 percent of its 6,500 U.S. dealerships should lender GMAC go bankrupt, a key retailer for the automaker said.

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General Motors may lose as many as 40 percent of its 6,500 U.S. dealerships should lender GMAC go bankrupt, a key retailer for the automaker said.

“There’s so many dealers on the edge, if GMAC goes out of business 30 to 40 percent of dealers won’t be able to get financing from anywhere else,” said Martin NeSmith, a liaison to the lender as a member of GM’s National Dealer Council. “They’ll go out of business.”

Dealers face a double threat as GMAC and GM teeter toward insolvency. Detroit-based GMAC said Wednesday it lacks the funding it needs to become a bank holding company and free up more money for dealer-inventory financing, called floor plan. GM, which owns 49 percent of GMAC, said it may run out of cash this month without at least $4 billion in federal loans ensnared in a U.S. Senate debate.

“The likelihood of getting floor plan from anyone else is very much in doubt,” said NeSmith, a Claxton, Ga.-based retailer of Chevrolets, Buicks, Pontiacs and GMC trucks. “Dealers are scared to death.”

The lender is GM dealers’ largest source of financing for buying vehicles, accounting for about 75 percent of U.S. inventory. For consumers, tighter GMAC loan rules eliminated about 40 percent of potential buyers, helping drag GM sales to a 22 percent drop this year that exceeded the 16 percent industrywide decline.

Gina Proia, a spokeswoman for the lender, declined to comment on the repercussions of a default.

“We are focused on the bond offering, which is still ongoing,” she said.

In its effort to win as much as $18 billion in U.S. aid, GM will trim 1,700 dealers by 2012 through consolidation, expected turnover and the possible sale of its Hummer and Saab divisions.

The automaker said in a video distributed to retailers earlier this year that it expected dealer profits to drop about 18 percent this year from 2007. Average annual dealer profit may fall to $199,000 a store, GM said.

GMAC said its plan for a $38 billion debt exchange to raise capital to convert to a bank holding company hasn’t attracted enough participation, leaving it short of the $30 billion in capital required by the Federal Reserve for bank conversion.

The lender is asking debt holders for the exchange as part of its effort to gain bank status for access to the Troubled Asset Relief Program. GM sold a 51 percent stake in GMAC to a group led by Cerberus Capital Management in 2006.