How Big Three Could Win Over Washington Automakers head back to Washington yet again this week seeking billions of dollars in government aid. They say the money is needed to keep daily operations going, but what are their chances of getting the funds?
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How Big Three Could Win Over Washington

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How Big Three Could Win Over Washington

How Big Three Could Win Over Washington

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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This is Day to Day. I'm Alex Cohen.


And I'm Madeleine Brand. Let's pick up where we left off. It was the week before Thanksgiving. The CEOs of the Big Three automakers were sent back to Detroit with nothing. This week, they're back in Washington with a new plan, and presumably, it's a lot more detailed, about what they'll do in exchange for billions of taxpayer dollars.

With us now is Detroit Free Press correspondent Justin Hyde. And, Justin, what have the CEOs of Ford, Chrysler, and GM, what they have been doing in the last two weeks?

Mr. JUSTIN HYDE (Correspondent, Detroit Free Press): Well, Madeleine, in the past two weeks, they've been poring over ideas and plans to bring back to Congress in hopes of convincing enough lawmakers that they need up to $25 billion in loans to get through the next several months.

BRAND: And do we have any word at all what those plans may be, what kind of cuts we're expecting?

Mr. HYDE: We don't have specifics on the plan as of yet, but we know some of the general directions that they'll have to go in. For example, with GM, we've heard that they're considering cutting up to four brands out of the eight that they sell in the United States. They're likely going to ask their debt holders to help them work on reducing their debt.

Basically, they're going to have to look all across their businesses to find enough cuts to convince Congress that they're serious about remaking their business in order to get this money that they're seeking.

BRAND: And there's also been some talk that they need to present plans to come up with cars that are more energy efficient, that are more forward-looking.

Mr. HYDE: That's true. And it's been interesting because each automaker is in a different place in its product plan. For example, Ford has been more rapid in moving towards smaller vehicles. Last week, it shut down its massive SUV plant in Michigan to start retooling it to build small cars based on the European design. GM and Chrysler have been a little bit behind Ford in those kinds of efforts.

I think there's some concern from the Detroit side that they're already under a lot of strain in their businesses. Trying to meet a higher bar in fuel economy standards would only add to that strain. On the other hand, here in D.C., you have a lot of members of Congress who want to see Detroit make a stronger pledge towards more fuel-efficient vehicles.

BRAND: And is there a different attitude now, two weeks later, on the Washington side?

Mr. HYDE: There's a lot of consensus that they're in dire straits, and that, without some sort of government aid, one or more of them might collapse. But there is not a lot of agreement on how the government should help them and what pool of money should be used to grant the automakers these loans. Congressional Democrats have one idea. Republicans have another. The White House has another. And unless that gets resolved, it seems very hard for a consensus to form that would get a bill through in the short time that's available.

BRAND: And again, the hearings will take place Thursday and Friday?

Mr. HYDE: The Senate committee will hear them on Thursday. The House committee will hear them on Friday. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said Congress could come back next Monday to consider a bill if they see enough momentum behind the aid in order to make that feasible. That does not leave a lot of time for the automakers to convince a lot of skeptical lawmakers that they're worth saving, or that they're worth having these loans.

BRAND: Justin Hyde covers the auto industry for the Detroit Free Press. Justin, thank you.

Mr. HYDE: Thank you, Madeleine.

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