While CEO Fritz Henderson was in bankruptcy court on Tuesday pleading for approval of an asset sale to a ‘new GM’ company to save the bankrupt automaker, his marketing staff were announcing new limited-time offers to lure US new car buyers.

The ’72-hour sale from today (1 July) to next Monday offers 0% financing for up to six years to “well-qualified buyers” for some 2009 and 2010 vehicles in dealer stock.

These include Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups; Chevrolet Suburban and GMC Yukon SUVs; the Chevrolet Impala sedan and models from the soon-to-be-axed Pontiac line like the Vibe, G3, G5, G6 and Holden Commodore-based G8 sports sedan.

“Many” other vehicles not in the sale will be offered with 0% financing for up to five years to those same “well-qualified” potential buyers.

GM also claimed to have 74 different models – twice as many as any other automaker – eligible for the new federal government CARS (Car Allowance Rebate System popularly known as ‘cash for clunkers’) programme.

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Subject to conditions, this offers owners of old vehicles vouchers worth US$3,500 to $4,500 as incentives to trade in for a new, more fuel-efficient model. The programme begins later this month.

GM’s campaign promoting the federal scheme will be called ‘buy and say goodbye’.

Money for the ‘clunkers’ programme won’t likely be available until late July, but GM wants to get customers thinking about a deal now, company spokesman John McDonald told Dow Jones.

GM’s sale, though running for six days, is dubbed a 72-hour event since dealers will, on average, be open only 72 of those hours because of the 4 July Independence Day holiday weekend, McDonald said.

He would not disclose GM’s incentive plans for later this month, but said “you can certainly anticipate we’ll be offering reduced rate financing” at that time.

“Business is doing better”, Henderson told the court yesterday. But, though June sales were not as bad as expected, they were still down. “We do not expect to make money in June of 2009,” he said.

Rival Ford has also begun to tout the ‘clunkers’ programme in the US with the slogan “let Ford recycle your ride”.

The federal deal allows buyers to turn in a 1984 or newer model that runs no more than 18 miles on a gallon for a replacement vehicle with better fuel economy.