Two-thirds of Americans say the $70 billion bailout and the resulting political cloud surrounding General Motors doesn't affect whether they would consider a GM vehicle for their next purchase, according to the first Yahoo! Autos survey -- but GM has still paid a political price for its rescue.Ever since then-president George W. Bush granted GM a bridge loan to survive the end of 2008, the politics of saving the nation's largest automaker have resonated through its business. The bankruptcy overseen by President Barack Obama came so quickly that there was little political opposition at the time, even though internal White House polling showed the rescues of GM and Chrysler were the most unpopular decisions of the administration before 2010, before both GM and Chrysler rebounded.
Since then, the storm has only grown, with GM taking most of the public damage due to the U.S. Treasury's 26.5 percent stake and Chrysler's early repayment of its loans. GM CEO Dan Akerson has been hauled in front of Congress to answer questions about the Chevy Volt, a car that Republican commentators have derided as a symbol of the Obama administration's misguided alternative energy push -- even though the Volt was in the planning stages well before Obama was elected.
Democrats have fought back, noting the bailouts saved thousands of jobs; Vice President Joe Biden's stump-speech staple includes the line "Bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive" -- a juxtaposition that ensures GM will be a political commodity through this November's election. This week, a Quinnipac University poll found a slight majority of Americans now backed the bailouts, but found support divided widely among party lines, with Democrats in favor, Republicans opposed and independents split 49 percent against to 46 percent for.
But those conflicted emotions don't appear to affect many people's decision to buy a GM vehicle. In the Yahoo! Autos poll of 1,000 people, 66 percent of those who responded said the bailout wouldn't change whether they'd consider a Chevy, Buick, GMC or Cadillac for their next car. An additional 6 percent said the bailout made them more likely to shop GM -- perhaps noting that Treasury's losses on its GM shares will be taxpayer's losses.
Yet 15 percent said the bailout had made them less likely to buy a vehicle from GM; More concerning for Detroit, 13 percent said they'd never consider a GM model at all. That's a good chuck of potential buyers, especially with GM's U.S. market share hitting 17.5 percent in March, it's lowest level since 1922. GM's cars and trucks are as strong as ever, and its profits show the bailout was successful. Now it just has to convince many customers to give it another chance.
Other stories from the Yahoo! Autos Survey:
Photo: Paul Sancya/AP