A Big Order For Detroit: U.S. To Buy 17,600 Autos

In a move aimed at giving the battered U.S. auto industry a boost, the federal government says it will buy about 17,600 fuel-efficient vehicles from Detroit's three automakers by June 1. The $285 million order includes the largest one-time purchase of hybrid vehicles for the federal government fleet in history, the White House said.

The government is accelerating the purchase as part of the $790 billion stimulus bill signed by President Obama in February.

"As a part of our commitment to the American auto industry, I charged my administration with using Recovery Act funds to purchase a new fleet of fuel efficient government vehicles to increase demand for our American auto companies and stimulate the economy," the president said in a statement issued by the White House.

The announcement comes as the federal government assesses the future of General Motors and Chrysler, which are on the edge of bankruptcy and looking to restructure.

The purchases will be made from GM, Ford and Chrysler and will include 2,500 hybrid sedans. All the vehicles under the purchase will be required to have higher mileage ratings than the autos they replace. The overall goal is to boost fuel efficiency by at least 10 percent, according to the White House.

"By swapping out less efficient federal vehicles for new hybrid and fuel efficient ones, this strategy will reduce gasoline consumption by 1.3 million gallons per year and prevent 26 million pounds of CO2 from entering the atmosphere," the White House said.

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