FOR THE WEEK OF DEC. 01, 2008
Troubled U.S. car companies ask for federal help
In reviews of cars, or in ads, note features on the vehicle. Would different features help automakers sell more cars?
Read up on the recent federal bailout of banks. Is it fair to help banks and not help the auto companies?
Read stories on shopping and business. Figure out any dependence on transportation. Then deduce the importance of cars and trucks in the economy.
The Detroit auto industry is facing its worst financial crisis in years. Things are so bad, executives from the three major companies asked the federal government for help. A number of lawmakers are willing to bail out the businesses. But some want to see a plan to lift them over their current money crisis, including ideas for more fuel-efficient cars and trucks.
The car companies want a total of $25 billion in loans. In seeking help, they note that Congress has already set aside $700 billion to help troubled banks and other financial institutions.
The auto losses are heavy. General Motors, for example, said it lost $2.5 billion in just three months this year, the third quarter. The company could run out of cash as early as next year. Ford lost $129 million in the same three months, and could run out of money by 2010.
The current problems are linked to the overall decline in the U.S. economy, a dip that sparked a drop in car sales and other products Many people have lost their jobs and consumers are spending less, making their old cars last longer.
To stay solvent, car companies are planning cutbacks including laying off thousands of workers. Not everyone agrees that the government should bail out the auto companies. Some say that the industry would end up stronger if it reorganized under bankruptcy laws. That would allow it more freedom to make necessary changes, they say. But automakers say that, if the industry fails, some two million jobs will be lost, including those in companies that supply parts to build cars.
The auto companies agreed to submit a bailout plan and Congress is scheduled to decide the matter soon.
Executive says: "Consumer spending, which represents close to 70 percent of the U.S. economy, fell dramatically, and the abrupt closure of credit markets created a downward spiral in vehicle sales." -- Rick Wagoner, General Motors CEO.
Critic says: "Taxpayers should not be on the hook for bailing out businesses that have made very bad decisions and deserve to face the consequences." -- Dan Ikenson, of Cato Institute, a think tank.
Lawmaker says: "Until we can see a plan where the auto industry is held accountable and a plan for viability on how they go into the future -- until we see the plan, until they show us the plan, we cannot show them the money." -- Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.
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