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Harold Bendell
Harold Bendell
MajorWorld used cars

"I'm usually a pretty mellow guy," Harold Bendell said, "But now I'm pissed. That's why I'm talking."

We were outside in a gravel lot the size of a shopping mall parking lot. Around us, bumper-to-bumper used cars were grouped by make and model. Bendell owns several new-car dealerships, but this is where the real action is. MajorWorld boasts of being the largest used-car dealership in the world.

He took me out there to show me why he thought General Motors was in trouble. Inside his used Chevrolet Equinoxes, door trim was chafing off. Seats had stains that wouldn't come out. Inside his used Pontiac cars, he said, the steering felt loose after only about 30,000 miles.

We should be careful about giving these companies money, he said, since they still didn't seem to grasp what the real problem was.

"They've been promising me the greatest cars in the world for the last 25 or 30 years, and I've been listening to them," Bendell had said to me earlier in his office. He also owns a Chevrolet dealership that faces the boulevard.

"Don't give me this Car & Driver s---!" he said. "'This car got voted Car & Driver Car of the year.' That's today. I loved my wife in the beginning. Eight years later... eh."

A GM spokeswoman told me later that the company is confident in the long-term durability of the products it's making today.

Things have been rough for GM dealers for a long time, Bendell said. "For the last four or five years, the average Chevrolet dealer has been in the toilet."

Unfortunately, somewhat improved quality hasn't led to greatly increased sales.

"The cars are better, no question about that," he said. "You don't have the warranty work to dip into and just say, 'I'm going to change transmissions all day.'" They also look nicer, but in the used car lot, Toyotas and Hondas end up looking better and selling for more.

He's concerned about GM's long-term viability, but Bendell is not sure it would be smart for taxpayers to just hand them a check. GM had recently decided to delay incentive payments it was supposed to make to dealers. He worried that GM might never be able to pay him that money.

"I just gave somebody a $6,000 rebate on a Tahoe. Am I going to see that $6,000?" he said. "I don't know."

On that question, another GM spokesperson told me Bendell doesn't need to worry. He'll get his money in early December.

If Congress does vote to give the dealers a bailout, it's important to him, as a taxpayer, that he knows what's being done with that money.

"I want to be there if I give you $25 billion," he said "I'm going to sleep with you. You, me and the fishes. I want to watch my money."

NEXT: Brian Benstock

Last updated December 26 2008: 9:02 AM ET
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