DETROIT -- General Motors has a secret weapon in its bid to gain U.S. market share this year. Just consider the lease portfolio at Paddock Chevrolet in Kenmore, N.Y.
Owner Duane Paddock says he's finally beginning to see customers trickling in with expiring 36-month leases, after having barely any off-lease customers in 2012. The lease drought -- a lingering effect of the recession and GM's 2009 bankruptcy -- cut off a major customer stream for a store that once averaged about 180 lease returnees a month.
"By about November we expect to be full-blown" with returning lessees, says Paddock, estimating that his sales staff will convert more than 50 percent of those into fresh leases or sales. He expects a few hundred off-lease customers to return this year, rebounding to nearly 1,800 next year.
For nearly two years, GM dealers have been suffering through a shortage of off-lease customers. That's because leasing by GM dealers all but dried up in late 2008, amid the financial crisis, and didn't resume in earnest until mid-2010.
Three years later, those first post-crash lessees are returning to Cadillac, Buick-GMC and Chevrolet showrooms. GM executives view it as a potential tail wind for sales growth this year and next, just as it launches an onslaught of new and redesigned vehicles, many of which were delayed by the 2009 bankruptcy.