'Last resort' means something good

Jim Henry is a special correspondent for Automotive News

In a recent blog, I referred to GM Financial as a "lender of last resort" for parent company General Motors.

I meant simply that GM regards GM Financial as a lender GM can count on, no matter what.

GM said in no uncertain terms after it bought AmeriCredit in 2010 that it wanted a captive finance company that would provide leases and subprime financing, for instance, when an outside partner might not.

But the term "last resort" struck some people as a criticism. GM Financial responded with an e-mail citing nice things that GM CEO Dan Akerson has said lately about GM Financial.

Later, somebody who e-mailed me to criticize GM Financial applauded the term. So it's time to set the record straight.

To me, "lender of last resort" means a lender you can absolutely, positively count on when the chips are down. It's up to the different automakers whether that means they have to own a captive finance company outright or whether a relationship with an outside partner will do. That's a different debate.

You can reach Jim Henry at autonews@crain.com

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