auto

Can GM's 60-day guarantee draw buyers?

Tara Baukus MelloGeneral Motors' new "May the Best Car Win" ad campaign, which offers new buyers an unprecedented 60-day money back guarantee, is aiming to prove that the GM-branded vehicles are better choices than their competitors. But now that the sale of Saturn has fallen through and the brand is being discontinued, the company that was once the heavyweight of the auto industry has now become a welterweight struggling to stay in its class with four brands: Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC.

As a new car shopper, will you let a GM vehicle jump into the ring with the other cars you are considering? How about if you could have up to a 60-day test drive before you decide the winner? GM sure is hoping you'll take it up on its offer. Truly, if a GM car or truck is on your list, there's no real reason not to -- there's really almost nothing to lose.

Here's how the program works: The 60-day money-back guarantee covers all 2009 and 2010 model year Chevrolets, Buicks, GMCs and Cadillacs, excluding medium-duty trucks, that are purchased and delivered to the customers by Nov. 30, though GM says it may extend the promotion. If the new owner isn't fully satisfied after 30 days, he can return the vehicle within the next 30 days -- no questions asked -- as long as it has less than 4,000 miles, no more than $200 worth of damage and has not been in an accident. The offer is good only for one vehicle per household. Leased and fleet vehicles, as well as those purchased for businesses, are not eligible.

So, assuming your car meets those requirements, do you get all your money back? Yes and no. The "buyback" price, as GM calls it, is the purchase price -- after any rebates or discounts -- plus any applicable sales taxes that were paid. It does not include anything else. This means the customer is responsible for costs such as other taxes, license, title and registration fees, finance charges, accessories, dealer fees and extended warranty charges. So, anyone who returns a vehicle would have some out-of-pocket costs.

However, the costs would be relatively minimal, assuming you avoid large charges such as an extended warranty or adding on dealer-installed accessories. Perhaps the largest drawback to the promotion is that customers can't get their trade-in back. If you return the vehicle, you'll need to purchase another car from that dealer or somewhere else, so you'll have transportation.

While GM's reputation may be tarnished, there's actually little reason not to consider its cars when shopping for a new vehicle. Quality has improved dramatically over the last few years. Cadillac improved its ranking from 10th to 3rd in J.D. Power and Associates 2009 Initial Quality Study, while Buick received the highest rating in the firm's 2009 Vehicle Dependability Study.

In terms of value, its products are generally priced competitively and offer similar options and features as competing vehicles. Five Chevrolet models were recognized for their good value in IntelliChoice's 2009 Best Overall Values of the Year awards.

All GM really needs is for consumers to give it a look, and it hopes its money-back guarantee will be the ticket to getting customers onto dealer's lots. Will it work? We'll know in a couple of months, as the sales numbers come in for the rest of the year.

Tara Baukus Mello is a freelance writer who has written about automotive topics of interest to consumers since 1995. If you have a car question, e-mail it to us at Driving for Dollars. Read more Driving for Dollars columns and Bankrate auto stories.

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