The good news: Dealers sold a record number of certified used vehicles in the first six months of 2004.
The bad news: Car companies made little or no money on those sales.
So why do the companies bother?
Automakers promote sales of certified pre-owned vehicles to strengthen residual values. The sales also make money for dealers and introduce buyers to brands they otherwise might not consider.
Certified vehicles differ from traditional used cars in that they carry factory warranties and often are of higher quality. Automakers offer low-interest financing on many of them.
Eleven major automakers have certified used-vehicle programs. U.S. sales were 785,353 in the first half of this year, up 5.3 percent from the year-ago period.
Jeff Heichel, General Motors' director of used vehicle activities, concedes that certified used vehicles don't yield much profit for the company. But GM's certified program has other advantages, Heichel says.
"It's important that we support the dealers in building the used-car business," he says. "It's important that we support the consumers and seek higher value for their vehicles when they turn them back in. That helps everybody in the value chain, including General Motors."
Dealers who handle GM brands sold 260,307 certified used cars and light trucks between January and June. That's 10.1 percent more than in the year-ago period.