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Local GM Dealership Watches Big Three Hearings

Central Ohio businesses tied to the automakers are watching the proceedings closely. WOSU wen to a local Pontiac dealership to find out what's going on in the minds of employees.

"They're trying to come up with every reason not to do it," Donna Deaton said.

Deaton, who has sold cars for more than 20 years, the last ten of them at Hadocy Pontiac on West Broad Street, sits at her desk - her computer streaming live the Big Three hearing. She's hopeful Congress will pull through and help the three automakers, one of which, GM, is her livelihood. But there's a sense of animosity there between Deaton and Congress and the banking industry for that matter. She said Washington has been too stringent on the Big Three while giving away billions of dollars to banks and financial companies.

"While the automakers did some of this to themselves, absolutely. Didn't the banks do this to themselves, too?" she asked.

Deaton, who is warm and friendly, is a seasoned car saleswoman. Usually, she said she sells at least 15 vehicles a month; last month she sold six. Two years ago she sold 180.

"This year I'm not going to crack a hundred. Boil that down that's like a 50 percent decrease in my salary impacting my ability to go out and spend and buy I haven't been to the mall in a long time. Last month I sold six units versus 15. And I wasn't the bottom of the pack," she said.

Let's talk to the sales manager. That's Dan Lynch. He's been with the company for 20 years. Last year Hadocy sold 800 new vehicles; this year Lynch said sales have dropped a staggering 50 percent.

"You have to sell cars to stay in business. A dealership this size needs to sell around 100 cars new and used combined. And last month I think we sold 57. Month to month we can't sustain what we're doing right now," he said.

Because of the sharp decline, the dealership has cut costs. It slashed about a dozen positions over the past year. It's reduced its inventory because the dealership pays interest for every car on the lot. And if they vehicles are just sitting there that's money it loses.

Lynch, who watches the news religiously, does not understand what is taking Congress so long to help the Big Three.

"It's hard to believe that it's this hard for Congress to make a decision to give the Big Three the money they need to sustain business for the next year or so until the economy turns around," Lynch said.

Hadocy Pontiac has been in business since 1954. Chris Hadocy, the dealership's president, says his father and uncle started the company selling Pontiacs. Over the years the dealership picked up Buick and GMC. Hadocy sits in his office. His laptop, like Deaton's, streams the Big Three hearing.

"It might go down a little better if the financial assistant were given to the financial institutions rather than to the auto companies. But the auto companies could receive considerable relief," from Big Three hearing testimony.

Hadocy also sees a bailout double standard.

"I challenge you to find one day of hearing in which AIG or CitiGroup attended and put there plans forth. And we're talking about $150 billion for one company alone. I see it as a bias against blue collar jobs," he said.

And Chris Hadocy said Congress cannot let the American Automobile Industry die.

"Yeah, I firmly believe that the United States on the world stage would be a laughing stock if we did not invest in the engine, that quite frankly, has powered the economy for the past 100 years," Hadocy said.

Salesperson Donna Deaton said she does not think Congress understands how big of an impact the Big Three and its dealerships have on communities across the country.

"In these hearings and all they don't have a clue how far reaching all of this. How much tax we pay here in Columbus. How much community involvement community involvement we have. How much of an entity and I mean you multiply that times 20 dealerships. To be taking it as lightly as much as the government seems to be taking it is unbelievable to me," Deaton said.

Deaton said the news makes her sales pitch tougher. Lease renewals are not bad, but she said she had to explain that, no, GM is not going bankrupt. At least not yet.

"It's just so much harder. It's harder in every way, shape or form. It's just unbelievable to explain. When half the time is just trying to reassure someone that you're going to be in business to honor the warranty work that's fantastic on this car," she said.

GM has said it would downsize its dealerships if it could get a federal loan. When asked if he was fearful his family's company would be one of them Hadocy said...

"We're here working six days a week just like every local dealership. We put our hearts and souls into it. When you look at it every one of our homes are on the line. It's just not the closing of a business, but we have 80 employees and their families that we're responsible for, so we're going to fight like hell to keep it open," Hadocy said.