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GM's bankruptcy: What consumers need to know

June 1, 2009 | 12:57 pm

GM bankruptcy

Along with the biggest bankruptcy filing by a manufacturer in U.S. history come big questions for current or potential owners of General Motors vehicles.

Here are some answers, from GM:

-- Will my warranty be honored?
Yes, the company says — it will fulfill obligations under its express warranty program, according to statements posted by GM on its website. This includes warranties on cars GM will no longer make, including Pontiacs.

-- Can I continue to use my GM-branded credit card? What about its earnings program?
The credit cards are still valid. However, the earnings program — in which card users earn credits toward purchases of new vehicles — is still up in the air. GM has asked the bankruptcy court to maintain the program.

-- Will replacement parts be available for GM cars?
The company says the parts can still be found at your local dealer. Of course, there is no guarantee your dealer will be there for long — the company has said that it will end its relationships with nearly 2,600 dealerships by next year.

-- If the dealer where I bought my car closes, will I still be able to get dealer-provided services?
GM-sponsored services, such as the warranty, remain in force — but you’ll have to find another dealership where they can be fulfilled. If you have an agreement for a service that came exclusively from your dealership (a year of free oil changes, for example, to new car buyers), it might go away if your dealership shuts down.

-- Will OnStar service continue?
Yes, says the company — current subscribers will still be able to use the over-the-air service that provides emergency communication and navigation.

-- Will the company go ahead with plans for new models?
GM says it still plans to launch several new cars this year and next, including the electric Chevy Volt and several mid-sized crossovers, including the GMC Terrain.

-- As an employee, do I still report for work as usual?
Yes, GM says, for now. The company has asked the bankruptcy court to approve its continuation of pay and benefits, without interruption. But there will be hefty job losses as the company goes through what it is calling a “reinvention.” More than 5,000 salaried workers will be laid off, the company says, with most of the job cuts coming this year.

-- Will employees continue to get health benefits?
The company says it hopes the benefits will continue without interruption, but that’s in the hands of the court.

-- How will the bankruptcy filing affect retiree benefits?
For now, there will be no changes in benefits for retirees, survivors and other beneficiaries, the company says. (GM cars were made in Southern California into the 1990s.) But there could be major changes. GM is working with the U.S. Treasury to reduce its benefit obligations to retirees by about two-thirds. That would mean cuts in health care and life insurance.

-- Can my pension by tapped by the company to help pay its debts?
That would be illegal. Federal law prohibits using pension-plan funds to pay creditors.

-- David Colker

Photo: Larry Oliver, a retired General Motors Corp. employee, waits to talk to his benefit representative outside the United Auto Workers Local 594 union hall in Pontiac, Mich. Credit: Bloomberg News

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