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Local dealer cheers GM repayment

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From Post staff reports

Sales have improved and the products “we sell are among the best being manufactured today,” said Lebanon’s only General Motors dealer following an announcement Wednesday that the U.S. automaker had paid back $8.1 billion in government loans.

W.P. Bone, president of family owned Wilson County Motors in Lebanon, said Thursday the news about General Motors repaying a sizeable portion of its debt was welcomed with cheers.

“For the past seven or eight years the automotive products that have been produced in America have been superior to many of our foreign competitors,” Bone said, adding that the news about General Motors progress toward recovery is a direct reflection on this.

General Motors said Wednesday it has repaid the $8.1 billion in loans it received from the U. S. and Canadian governments, a statement that the company’s key leadership said is a sign that the automaker is on the road to recovery.

Bone, whose dealership founded in 1927 carries Chevrolet, Buick and GMC products manufactured by General Motors, said sales have been trending in a positive direction, a development that he credits to the quality of the vehicles being sold as much as anything else.

General Motors’ Chief Executive Officer Edward E. Whitacre Jr. announced the loan pay-backs Wednesday at the company’s Fairfax Assembly Plant in Kansas City, Kan., where he said GM is investing $257 million in that factory and the Detroit-Hamtramck plant, both of which will build the next generation of the midsize Chevrolet Malibu.

The White House pointed to GM’s repayment of the loan and Chrysler LLC’s posting of an operating profit in the first quarter of 2010 as concrete signs that the bailout of the U.S. automakers was working.

The American auto industry reportedly lost more than 400,000 jobs in 2008, and analysts estimated that an additional 1 million would have been lost had GM and Chrysler liquidated. In the past nine months, according to the White House, the auto industry has added 45,000 jobs, the strongest employment growth in the industry in nearly a decade.

GM received a total of $52 billion from the U.S. and $9.5 billion from Canada and Ontario governments last year as it dealt with bankruptcy protection issues. Early on in the negotiations for the financial aid the entire amount submitted by the U.S. was considered a loan in an effort to keep GM from failing and sending the U.S. economy into a depression. However, during bankruptcy proceedings, the U.S. reduced the loan portion to $6.7 billion and converted the rest to company stock, while the Canadian governments held $1.4 billion in loans.

GM plans to repay the remaining $45.3 billion to the U.S. government and $8.1 billion to Canada through a public stock offering that may occur later this year. The U.S. government now owns 61 percent of the company, and Canada owns roughly 12 percent. 

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