Buying a Used Car: Should You Buy From a Defunct Automaker?
In the last few years, more than a few automakers and car brands have gone bust or left the U.S. market. Should you even consider buying a used car from one of these brands? Will parts be available? Will warranties be honored? We've gone brand by brand to help you decide if it's a good idea to buy a car from a defunct automaker.
You shouldn't have too much concern about finding parts if you're interested in most HUMMER, Pontiac or Saturn models. Since those were General Motors brands, most used models share parts with other GM vehicles, such as the Chevrolet Malibu (in the case of the Pontiac G6) or the Chevrolet Tahoe (in the case of the HUMMER H2).
There are a few models you may want to watch out for when buying a used car. The full-size HUMMER H1, for instance, is a low-volume vehicle manufactured before General Motors took over the brand (and during GM's ownership). However, that model has a loyal, helpful enthusiast following that should point you to available parts. Others to think twice about include the Pontiac G8 and Solstice Coupe, as well as the Saturn Astra. Those models didn't have any GM "twins," so finding parts could get tricky -- though GM dealers tell us there aren't any problems at the moment.
Like HUMMER models, Mercury vehicles almost always have a "twin" product in the Ford lineup. As a result, it should be no trouble to find parts for nearly any modern Mercury -- from the Grand Marquis (based on the Ford Crown Victoria) to the Milan (based on the Ford Fusion). Also like HUMMER, Ford will continue to honor warranties on Mercury models as the warranties expire.
While SAAB offers some unusual vehicles that stand out from the crowd, we recommend doing a lot of homework before buying one. One reason is that many late-model SAAB warranties are no longer honored. That means you'll be paying out-of-pocket for every repair -- even on 3- and 4-year-old cars. You also may have trouble finding parts, especially for body panel repairs.
A visit to a local SAAB dealer suggests parts distribution isn't difficult now, but that may not always be the case -- especially since SAAB is officially bankrupt and the brand's new owners may not continue making parts for older vehicles. Our suggestion: Talk to current owners and dealership service departments before buying a used SAAB. And don't expect a seamless experience when it comes time for major servicing or bodywork.
Suzuki is the most recent brand to leave the U.S. market, having declared bankruptcy here late last year. With no parent brand in the U.S. (unlike Mercury, which falls under the Ford umbrella, or General Motors brands Saturn, Pontiac and HUMMER), Suzuki owners may have trouble tracking down parts in the future.
Some models, such the Equator pickup and earlier versions of the Grand Vitara and XL-7 SUVs, should be okay, as they have "twin" models sold by other U.S. brands. But the Aerio and Kizashi may prove problematic as they age and the brand's distribution network dwindles. The one benefit to Suzuki's bankruptcy compared to SAAB's is that Suzuki says it will continue honoring warranties on its vehicles. If you want a Suzuki, be sure to negotiate a good deal.