- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Major business groups and local officials whose communities depend on the auto industry Tuesday joined the Big Three automakers in a major lobbying blitz to pry tens of billions of dollars in federal aid from a reluctant Congress.

Rallies were held, letters to lawmakers were sent and labor leaders called publicly for assistance as the heads of General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC presented detailed plans on how they would use the bailout funds.

All warned of the dire consequences of inaction.

GM, in its submission, insisted that it needed $4 billion by the end of the year just to survive, part of an $18 billion aid request.

“Absent such assistance, the company will default in the near term, very likely precipitating a total collapse of the domestic industry,” the nation’s largest automaker said.

With Ford and Chrysler seeking a combined $16 billion in aid and lines of credit, the nominal cost of the industry bailout is already shooting past the original $25 billion discussed last month.

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The chief executives pledged major new investments if they get the loans they are seeking, and they promised to keep their corporate jets parked back home in Detroit when they arrive in Washington late this week. Two of the CEOs said they would travel to the nation’s capital via domestic-made hybrid cars to show they had learned from their public relations mistakes.

Major U.S. business lobbies, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Financial Services Roundtable and the National Association of Manufacturers, are supporting the industry’s case, as are the United Auto Workers and other labor unions closely tied to Detroit’s success.

An industry support group billing itself as the “Engine of Democracy” announced plans for a Capitol Hill rally later this week with representatives from every state and the District in support of the bailout, in an attempt to dramatize the broad impact of a failure of any of the major U.S. auto firms.

At a rally in Baltimore on Tuesday, Chrysler President Jim Press met with 50 Maryland Port Authority employees and state officials to discuss the company’s impact on the local economy. The privately held Chrysler is the port’s largest exporter.

“The message is about jobs, and preserving our way of life, preserving manufacturing and the essence of adding value. What we now need to do is make sure this is heard in Washington, so those making the decisions can respond to the public will and not make this become a logjam in politics but allow us to resurrect our industry,” Mr. Press said.

Chrysler’s corporate Web site links to a lobbying effort by the company to win congressional approval for the company’s plea.

“We are going to need the help of our employees, suppliers and dealers to communicate the urgency of our request,” the site says.

Despite major price cuts and sales incentives, each of the Big Three on Tuesday revealed sharp sales drops in November. Total sales declined by 31 percent for Ford, 41 percent for GM and 47 percent for Chrysler compared with November 2007.

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