“Big Three” CEOs Go to Washington, Again

The chief executives of the Big Three U.S. automakers returned to Washington D.C. Thursday to plead Congress for a $34 billion bailout, two weeks after their initial attempt to secure a government rescue was met by demands that they overhaul their restructuring plans.

"It's fair to say that last month's hearings were difficult for us ... but we learned a lot," General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner told the Senate Banking Committee, according to AFP. "We're here today because we made mistakes, and we're here because forces beyond our control have pushed us to the brink."

Earlier in the week, GM and Chrysler CEO Bob Nardelli said their companies face bankruptcy if they do not receive government loans. Chrysler seeks $7 billion in bailout funds by year’s end, while GM needs $4 billion.

GM, perhaps the company with the greatest risk of collapse, plans to lay off a third of its workforce, while cutting the number of its U.S. plants from 47 to 38 in 2012, according to AFP.

Ford CEO Alan Mulally, who Wednesday voiced increasing worry about the fates of GM and Chrysler, said his auto company is in better shape than his competitors, adding that Ford might return to profitability by 2011. Nonetheless, he has asked Congress for a $9 billion credit line in case the economy worsens.

“We produced more vehicles than our customers wanted, then slashed prices,” Mulally told Congress Thursday, according to CNBC. As a result of those mistakes, Mulally added, “we are really focused.”

But it remains unclear whether there is enough support in Congress for a rescue plan.

While lawmakers like Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd and New York Senator Charles Schumer back a bailout, prominent Republicans and Democrats oppose a rescue plan.

Wagoner, Nardelli and Mulally, who drove to Washington in hybrids after being criticized for jetting to the nation’s capital during their first trip, have all warned of the tremendous damage to the U.S. economy if they are forced to file for bankruptcy.

(415) 336-5810