Two Billion Dollar Dealer Finance Pool: But Not One Dollar Used Photo:

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Tim O'Brien | Feb, 16 2009 | 2 Comments

Many industry analysts - including the giant brains here at TMR – may have got things wrong on the effect of the withdrawal of GE and GMAC from new car dealer floorplan financing.

Why do we think so? Well, remember the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV)? It was a $2 billion pool set up by the Rudd Government, and funded by the four major Australian banks, with the primary aim to assist 'viable' car dealers who were set to lose their wholesale financing.

It now turns out that Credit Suisse (who is providing the technical support to the SPV) has reported to the industry that not one dollar – that's none, not a zac, zip, zero, zilch – has been advanced to any dealer from the $2 billion allocated. Not one dollar.

In November last year, when GE and GMAC announced they were cutting off financing to car dealers and bolting, many warned that with credit markets everywhere strangled for liquidity and new car sales in a death spiral overseas and struggling here, the industry would likely face a tsunami of dealership collapses.

This has not eventuated.

While there have been some closures and some brand shedding by a number of multi-franchise dealerships (where more than one brand is housed under the roof of the showroom), the run of collapses expected simply has not occurred.

But such was the panic that rattled through the industry late in 2008, the Rudd Government responded with the establishment in December of the so-named Special Purpose Vehicle. Financiers GE and GMAC, you will remember, held around 40 percent of the market thus leaving the $2 billion 'hole' the SPV was to plug. That was one hell of a lot of affected dealers – some of them huge operations employing hundreds of staff.

Surprisingly, now, nearly two months after it was established, and more than a month since GE and GMAC's announced 'cut-off', not a single dollar has found its way out the door from the SPV.


Furthermore, Credit Suisse also reports that as few as 100 dealers are still without alternative floorplan finance providers, with the greater number of these being smaller dealers, mostly located in regional and rural areas.

In fact, the total value of GE and GMAC wholesale lending yet to be re-financed has shrunk markedly to now be as little as $400 million.

(It might be noted here that, despite the announced January 5th cut-off by GE and GMAC, both financiers gave quiet undertakings to the Government and industry representatives that they would "be flexible" to allow affected dealers sufficient time to make other financing arrangements. They would seem to have done this.)

Our information also indicates that less than one third of the100 remaining dealers without alternative financing are 'unviable'. (Just 30 dealers from across the continent: no tsunami there.)

That the SPV has yet to open its wallet means, quite simply, that the majority of dealers affected by the exit of GMAC and GE Money have found new floorplan financiers.

It also means that existing credit providers (key among them being Esanda, St George Bank and Capital Finance) have stepped into the breach and scooped up most of GE and GMAC's dealer clients.

Suddenly, what looked like a huge problem two months ago, now looks more than manageable and certainly less than a disaster.

To add to this change in the state of play, the industry is expecting an agreement with a new entrant into the dealer floorplan finance market to be announced within the next week.

This will certainly be welcome. Ford Credit, with a $500 million 'floorplan lending book' continues to look like a shaky proposition here, and, while giving no clear indication of its intentions, many industry analysts expect it to vacate the market sooner rather than later.

credit-suisseTMR understands that Credit Suisse and Treasury are in discussions with Ford Credit to secure "ongoing arrangements" for its dealer floorplan financing.

It is going to be a tough year for car dealers, manufacturers and the industry. No-one expects any miracles nor to any rapid turnaround in consumer confidence and spending; notwithstanding the $48 billion stimulus package now through the Federal Parliament.

There is however reason for some optimism in the news that has surfaced about the SPV. Our dealer sector, after years of profitability, may be in better shape to ride things out than many expected – provided the recession is not too deep nor too prolonged.

One can only hope our manufacturers are similarly placed.

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