Auto Industry C.E.O.'s Lobby for Loans

The chief executives of three U.S. auto giants asked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Wednesday to fund a $25 billion loan program that would allow their companies to modernize plants and fight off a freefalling economy.

Robert Nardelli of Chrysler LLC., G.M. C.E.O. Rick Wagoner, and Ford chief executive Alan Mulally said in a letter addressed to Pelosi that the credit crunch, rising commodity prices, and increasing gas prices had resulted in sluggish sales.

"The potential adverse effects of the above combination of factors–factors outside our direct control–have the potential to severely impact tens of thousands of employees and have a lasting effect on industrial production in the U.S.," wrote the chief executives in the letter, according to the Associated Press.

The three C.E.O.'s met with Pelosi for 45 minutes Wednesday and emerged from their meeting with an optimistic outlook. Pelosi said the House will consider the funding as part of an upcoming budget resolution.

"The support that we got was again very encouraging," said Chrysler's Nardelli, according to a New York Times report. "The conversations I have had all day on the Hill have been very encouraging, very candid, very straightforward and so as we conclude the day, I would say it was successful."

Congress authorized the loan program in its 2007 energy bill–but kept from funding it–in an effort to aid the auto industry meet new fuel-efficiency standards.

Despite criticism that the program amounts to another government bailout, Congressional leaders have signaled that they favor helping automakers.

"It's incumbent on them [automakers] to make the case to Congress that it is a loan guarantee, that it is a wise investment of taxpayer dollars, and I think that they are on the Hill this week making that case," said Representative Adam Putman of Florida, according to a Times report. "The reports that I have heard from my colleagues is that they have been fairly persuasive."

The government interest rate for the loans would be around 5 percent.

(415) 336-5810