DETROIT ( TheStreet) -- General Motors is eagerly awaiting its IPO and has big buzz behind upcoming models such as the Chevrolet Volt and Cruze, but offers few good reasons to buy now.

Much like fellow bailout baby Chrysler, GM is better off than it was a year ago, when it was mired in bankruptcy and saddled with sagging brands and models. Also like Chrysler, though, GM's best days are ahead of it. Sales of its remaining Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac and GMC brands rose 36% last month from the same period in 2009 -- when it was propping up its Saturn, Saab, Hummer and Pontiac brands, as well as a few redundant models -- but dove between 12% and 13% from May's take.

Part of what's holding back the company derisively known as "Government Motors" since taking federal bailout funds last year is a future that still feels miles away. The Chevrolet Cruze, the anticipated compact replacement to Chevy's ho-hum Cobalt that allegedly gets more than 40 highway miles per gallon, won't arrive until September. The plug-in electric Volt won't appear until some two months later.

Meanwhile, incentive programs aimed at existing GM models have diminished 8.7% from May to June and are down 4.8% since June 2009, according to

"If someone last year or in late 2008 decided to pull back and wait and really needs a new car right now, that buyer is more inclined to purchase," says Jeff Schuster, executive director of global forecasting at J.D. Power and Associates. "If it's someone who's really attracted to new product, which we're just starting to see now after being down over the past 12 months, they're waiting it out."

GM isn't alone. The entire automotive industry has dropped incentives 1.3% from May to June and 6.9% since last year, according to auto-information company Edmunds. Its neighbors in Detroit have cut back as well, with Ford cutting incentives 0.7% since May and Chrysler hacking its buyer benefits by 5.3% since last June, according to TrueCar. Bargain hunters can try their luck with Toyota ( TM), where recall troubles have helped maintain a 39% incentive increase from June 2009, but will have little luck elsewhere.

"That buyer is going to need to be a bit more flexible in their shopping if they're looking for a deal," Schuster says. "Deals and incentives are down substantially, and I wouldn't expect that to change toward the end of this year and into next year as long as manufacturers remain more disciplined in balancing supply and demand."

This had been a problem for GM and Chrysler in the past, as the Cobalt and the once-funky PT Cruiser saturated rental fleets and overstayed their very long welcome. analyst Jesse Toprak says domestic automakers excel in building expectations -- as Ford ( F) did with its subcompact Fiesta, Chevrolet did with the Volt and Chrysler is doing with its little Euro-flavored Fiat 500 -- but often fail to sustain that excitement by "building one less car than consumers demand" or react to changes in the marketplace.

Charlie Vogelheim, executive editor of Intellichoice, says that while automakers have finally recognized consumer demand for increased utility at reduced mileage, some of the models leaving the marketplace -- such as the Cobalt and PT Cruiser -- represent a greater immediate value to the consumer.

"Often, GM models at the end of their life cycle tend to be the best because of improvements made over the life span of the vehicles," Vogelheim says. "The same was true for Chrysler, where the PT Cruiser was discontinued not for the quality of the vehicle, but because they were in so many fleets that the initial novelty wore off."

The new cars themselves, however, are making their own best argument for postponing a vehicle purchase. Vogelheim mentioned new models' integrated technology, such as Ford's Microsoft ( MSFT)-made SYNC system that connects MP3 players, Bluetooth-enabled phones and GPS as a selling point, while emphasizing that the Volt, Cruze and Fiat 500's fuel economy could be worth the wait as well. Toprak says choosing a fading Cobalt or PT Cruiser over a new model can be short-sighted at best and a lousy investment at worst.

"In the short term, there's great value in buying the last iteration of these cars," Toprak says. "That said, their resale value won't be nearly as great because of their numbers and the fact that the line's being discontinued. A newly released car will always have greater value than a discontinued model."

-- Reported by Jason Notte in Boston.


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Jason Notte is a reporter for His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post,, Time Out New York, the Boston Herald, The Boston Phoenix, Metro newspaper and the Colorado Springs Independent.