Decision on GM Bailout Could Decide Bell Motor Co. Sale - Southern Maryland Headline News

Decision on GM Bailout Could Decide Bell Motor Co. Sale

By Guy Leonard, County Times

HOLLYWOOD, Md. (Dec. 4, 2008)—Gary Bell, vice president of Bell Motor Co. in Leonardtown, said the future of his family’s business could become clear after Dec. 5.

That is because Congressional hearings set for that day on whether to financially bail out ailing U.S. auto manufacturers, including their main supplier General Motors, with billions of taxpayer dollars, will likely impact their negotiations to sell the dealership.

Back in late September, the Bell family, who have operated the second oldest, continually running Chevrolet dealership in the nation for 85 years, decided to close the doors on the business because it simply became too difficult to turn a profit, especially with the high cost of fuel and the economic downturn precipitated by the national credit crunch.

Soon after, however, rumors began to circulate about the Bell family talking with numerous other auto dealers in an effort to sell their business.

Winegardner Auto Group, which has locations in Fort Washington, Prince Frederick and Brandywine, has emerged as a likely buyer.

But, Bell said, nothing has been confirmed yet since General Motors must approve any sales deal on one of its franchises.

“We’re hoping it happens, we’re still waiting on GM,” Bell told The County Times. “But from Mr. Winegardner’s point of view, if there’s no GM then there’s not much point [to buying the franchise.]”

Chuck Winegardner, owner of the Winegardner Auto Group, told The County Times he had a good feeling about the deal, and that they were just waiting to see, like the Bell family, whether General Motors would approve the deal.

“The whole car industry’s pretty much up in the air,” Winegardner said, adding that he believed the deal would likely happen soon.

“I would say it would, by the end of December at least,” Winegardner said, adding that a good number of the employees at Bell Motor would probably stay on once the deal is sealed.

The big three automakers Ford, Chrysler and General Motors, have clamored for financial assistance from the federal government in recent weeks because, they claim, their huge operations are in danger of complete failure.

The Bush administration has been cool to the prospect of spending another $25 billion on the beleaguered automakers while Congressional Democrats and president-elect Barack Obama have said they supported bailing them out as long as they provide a plan to overhaul their business models.


Bell Motor Co. Closing After 85 Years In Business, Sept. 26, 2008

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