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GM offers incentives to clear Saturn, Pontiac

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General Motors Co. is offering deep discounts on its remaining Saturn and Pontiac vehicles as it looks to move the leftover inventory of the soon-to-be-dead brands.

The automaker will pay dealers $7,000 for every new Saturn or Pontiac left on their lot if the vehicle is moved to dealer-operated rental or service fleets, according to The Wall Street Journal, which cited a letter mailed to dealers. This allows the dealers to sell the cars and trucks to consumers at a discount, although the vehicles would be labeled as used because the dealer would technically be the first owner.

With a $7,000 discount, the manufacturer's suggested price of Pontiac's cheapest vehicle, the G3 hatchback, falls to $7,335. The incentive brings Saturn's cheapest model, the Astra compact car, to $9,495. However, GM spokesman Tom Henderson cautioned that the final price of the vehicles might be different.

The offer expires Jan. 4, according to the Journal. Henderson confirmed the details of the incentive plan yesterday.

"That was the purpose of the programs - to help dealers reduce those inventories," he said.

GM already has been offering Saturn and Pontiac buyers $6,500 discounts, or 0-percent financing on 72-month loans. These two offers can't be combined with the $7,000 incentive.

The decision to discount Saturns and Pontiacs comes as GM closes both brands under the Detroit automaker's restructuring plan.

Henderson said that as of Nov. 30, Pontiac dealers had 8,500 vehicles in stock and Saturn dealers had 5,700 throughout the United States.

The Journal reported that similar dealer-purchase programs in the past have provided a modest spark to industry sales. But GM's new offer dwarfs most prior efforts in that it involves so many vehicles - a dozen nameplates, ranging from the Saturn Aura to the Pontiac Solstice.

"When GM killed Oldsmobile, it took three years; this is basically killing brands on steroids," said Rebecca Lindland, an analyst at IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Mass. "I don't know why a dealer wouldn't take this deal."

The shutdown of Pontiac was announced earlier in the year. GM announced this fall it would discontinue Saturn after a deal collapsed to sell the brand to Penske Automotive Group Inc.

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