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Some doubt GMAC move by Fed will spur auto sales

Several analysts said consumers were wary of adding more debt. Others were more optimistic.

Several analysts expressed skepticism yesterday that the Federal Reserve's decision allowing GMAC Financial Services to become a bank holding company would spur many more people to buy cars.

Daniel Alpert, managing director at the investment bank Westwood Capital, said so many consumers already were struggling with existing debt that he doubted the Fed's action would cause them to take on still more.

The Fed approved GMAC's request Wednesday to become a bank holding company, authorizing it to apply for a portion of the Treasury's $700 billion bailout fund and receive emergency loans directly from the Fed.

Analysts had speculated that without help, GMAC would have had to file for bankruptcy protection or shut down, dealing a blow to General Motors' own chances for survival.

The Fed said its move "would benefit the public by strengthening GMAC's ability to fund the purchases of vehicles manufactured by GM and other companies and by helping to normalize the credit markets for such purchases."

But some analysts said they doubted the Fed would achieve that goal.

"I don't think the Fed decision, per se, will have any impact on the consumers' willingness to buy cars," Bert Ely, a banking-industry consultant in Alexandria, Va., said via e-mail. "For many consumers, the willingness to buy a car - new or used - is largely a function of their ability to get affordable financing."

Christopher Whalen, managing director of Institutional Risk Analytics, said would-be customers were simply not buying cars. Still, those who enjoy excellent credit will be able to borrow at historically low rates, as in the housing market. And others are more optimistic about the Fed's action.

Scott Talbott, a financial-industry lobbyist, said the Fed's move was part of a "one-two punch" that, along with the bailout of GM and Chrysler, could get the auto industry moving.