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GMAC gives up some GM car financing rights

GMAC LLC will no longer have exclusive rights to provide no- or low-interest loans to people who take advantage of General Motors financing incentives.
/ Source: The Associated Press

GMAC LLC will no longer have exclusive rights to provide no- or low-interest loans to people who take advantage of General Motors financing incentives, as part of the complex deal that gave the troubled lender billions in federal aid.

The move could reduce the Detroit automaker’s dependance on GMAC to provide financing and possibly boost its sales by giving consumers more options for affordable loans.

GMAC, which provides GM dealer and customer financing in addition to home mortgage loans, disclosed the terms of the agreement in a regulatory filing Friday. The lender said the government will get 5 million preferred shares of GMAC paying 8 percent interest in exchange for its $5 billion capital injection to help GMAC avoid bankruptcy.

In its filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, GMAC said General Motors Corp. can now offer financing incentives such as zero-percent loans through other lenders under certain circumstances. Some of the restrictions disappear in December 2010 and all of the restrictions will be gone three years later.

GM spokesman John McDonald said the automaker doesn’t plan to change its financing incentive agreements with GMAC and hopes GMAC will continue to offer the loans because they have been key to getting more people to buy GM cars and trucks.

GMAC had paid GM an annual exclusivity fee and had been required to meet targets for leases and loans, the filing said. The exclusivity deal was effective through November 2016, according to the filing.

The filing comes after GMAC’s announcement earlier this week that it would reduce the minimum credit score required for auto financing to 621 from 700, and GM’s announcement that it would offer zero-percent or low-interest financing through GMAC on certain models through Monday. The federal aid GMAC received made both moves possible.

GM dealers already have seen significant sales increases as a result, said Jesse Toprak, executive director of industry analysis for the automotive Web site

“In the last few days, dealerships have been telling us that they did 40 percent of their business for December in the last week,” Toprak said. “The uptick is certainly more than we traditionally see in the month of December.”

Friday’s filing also says GMAC won’t have to provide lease financing. Auto finance companies have lost money on leases as trade-in values have dropped due to the collapse in U.S. vehicle sales. High gasoline prices also devalued pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles, depressing their after-lease values.

McDonald said the percentage of GM sales in the form of leases has declined to “virtually zero” in recent months, not only because of weak used car values, but also because of low demand for that kind of debt from the secondary credit markets.

“We certainly would love to see a return to leasing, but that will be a big function of how much credit markets loosen up and how much appetite there is out there for lease paper,” he said.

Howard Polirer, director of industry relations for the automotive Web site, said dealers see incentive financing, including leasing, as key to getting more people in their showrooms.

“I think it’s a very viable purchase alternative for a certain kind of consumer and I am very confident that once the dust settles, the money loosens up and financing becomes available, we’re going to see a strong push for that,” Polirer said.

GMAC also said Friday that the government exercised a 10-year warrant to buy 250,000 more GMAC preferred shares for a penny each.

GMAC said if the U.S. Treasury doesn’t get interest payments on its preferred shares for six straight quarters, or more than six nonconsecutive quarters, it will get two seats on an expanded GMAC management board.

GM shares rose 45 cents, or 14 percent, to $3.65 Friday.