Ohio dealer Chris Haydocy heard it even at dinner parties: "Government Motors."
In conservative Buckeye country, it meant a fat "no, thank you" to vehicles from General Motors Co., whose majority stakeholder was the federal government.
But after last week's smash-hit initial public offering of GM stock, he and others think the stigma of government ownership has been largely erased.
The IPO, which created buzz way beyond Wall Street, is casting GM's four brands in a new light for consumers. Some dealers now expect buyers turned off by Government Motors to return to Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC.
Steve Girsky, GM vice chairman for corporate strategy, said last week that government ownership hurt sales. "Our studies showed that consumers knew it going into the showroom," he said.
Girsky said huge demand for GM shares validated the theme senior executives had pitched to investors: GM has competitive products, renewed finances and global growth opportunities. "This largely puts the Government Motors moniker behind us," he said.
The IPO ballooned to $23.1 billion last week after GM increased the size of the offering and repriced the common shares to $33 per share instead of the original estimate of $26. The stock closed Friday afternoon at $34.26 a share.
GM's four surviving brands have rebounded nicely this year from a dismal 2009, aided by substantial fleet sales representing 29 percent of total U.S. sales through October.
Chevrolet rose 18 percent through October, compared with an 11 percent gain for the U.S. industry. GM, though, was up only 6 percent, mainly because it shed four brands in last year's bankruptcy.