>Several analysts expressed skepticism Friday that the Federal Reserve's decision allowing GMAC Financial Services to become a bank holding company would spur many more people to buy cars.
Several analysts expressed skepticism Friday that the Federal Reserve’s decision allowing GMAC Financial Services to become a bank holding company would spur many more people to buy cars.
Daniel Alpert, of investment bank Westwood Capital, said so many consumers already are struggling with existing debt that he doubts the Fed’s action will cause them to take on still more. “I don’t think it will suddenly increase auto credit,” Alpert said.
The Fed approved GMAC’s request Wednesday to become a bank holding company, authorizing it to apply for a portion of the Treasury’s $700 billion bailout fund and receive emergency loans directly from the Fed.
Meanwhile, GMAC had until midnight Friday to clear a final hurdle in its quest to become a bank holding company.
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GMAC Financial Services must complete a complicated $30 billion debt-for-equity exchange by then.
Analysts had speculated that without financial help, GMAC would have had to file for bankruptcy protection or shut down, dealing a blow to General Motors’ own chances for survival. The Fed cited “emergency conditions” in justifying its decision.
The Fed said its move “would benefit the public by strengthening GMAC’s ability to fund the purchases of vehicles manufactured by GM and other companies and by helping to normalize the credit markets for such purchases.”
But some analysts said they doubt that will happen. They point to the deteriorating economy and debt-laden consumers’ inability or unwillingness to borrow more for big-ticket items such as cars, trucks and SUVs. Tighter lending standards have shut out many buyers.
“I don’t think the Fed decision, per se, will have any impact on the consumers’ willingness to buy cars,” Bert Ely, a banking industry consultant in Alexandria, Va., said via e-mail. “For many consumers, the willingness to buy a car — new or used — is largely a function of their ability to get affordable financing.”
Christopher Whalen, managing director of Institutional Risk Analytics, said would-be customers are simply not buying cars. Noting that Toyota has just forecast its first operating loss in 70 years, Whalen sees no end to the slowdown.
Still, those who enjoy excellent credit will be able to borrow at historically low rates, as in the housing market. And others are more optimistic about the Fed’s action.
Scott Talbott, a financial-industry lobbyist, said the Fed’s move is part of a “one-two punch” that, along with the bailout of GM and Chrysler, could get the auto industry moving again. Giving GMAC access to the Treasury’s bailout fund should loosen lending markets, allowing GMAC to grant more loans to potential buyers shut out by tighter loan standards, he said.