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Automakers Deliver Plans To Congress

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Michele Norris. It's deadline for the Big Three automakers. They're headed back to Capitol Hill later this week minus the corporate jets. They're offering plans for how they will fix their companies, and they're hoping the second time will be the charm in their bid for billions of dollars in government loans. The CEOs will be arriving in Washington just as reports suggest cars did not sell well in the month of November. NPR's Brian Naylor is covering the auto CEOs' effort to win money from Congress, and he joins me now. Brian, what can you tell us about the proposals that the automakers delivered to Congress?

BRIAN NAYLOR: Well, Michele, let's start with Ford since they released their plan first. And what's most interesting is that Ford isn't actually asking for a bridge loan at this point, but what it calls a standby line of credit of up to $9 billion. Ford says if it takes any of that money that CEO Alan Mulally will take a token salary of a dollar a year. The company says it will also sell its five corporate jets. Ford says it's shifting production away from trucks and SUVs to smaller cars, and plans to return to profitability by 2011.

GM says it needs some $12 billion in bridge loans, including 4 billion alone this month and a $6 billion line of credit. It also says that Pontiac will become a specialty brand with reduced product offerings and that it's exploring alternatives for the Saturn brand. It's also trying to find some other takers for its corporate jet fleet that it's now leasing. Both the Ford and the GM CEOs say they'll be coming to Washington by hybrid car for this round of hearings. Chrysler is expected to be looking for some $7 billion in loans from the government.

NORRIS: I want to ask you about those bad sales figures for November. Do those numbers have any effect on how lawmakers view the bailout?

NAYLOR: Well, that'll be interesting to watch. Chrysler said its sales were down 47 percent; GM, 41 percent; Ford, 31 percent. So I think it certainly underscores for lawmakers the troubled times the industry is facing. Speaker Nancy Pelosi was asked today if she thinks Congress will act. Here's her response.

Representative NANCY PELOSI (Democrat, California; Speaker of the House): I believe that an intervention will happen either legislatively or from the administration. I think it's pretty clear that bankruptcy is not an option.

NAYLOR: I think, you know, the sales figures, as I say, add credibility to Detroit's argument that, hey, it's not us. It's the economy that's killing us.

NORRIS: We've all seen the CEOs there in the chamber on Capitol Hill, but they also work their relationships with the various lawmakers. How much is politics a part of this?

NAYLOR: Politics? In Washington? Well, you know, I think lawmakers were appalled by, you know, the tin ear that automakers showed the last time they were here, coming to Washington hat in hand via corporate jet and unable to answer the basic question about what they would do with the money. But on the other hand, members of Congress certainly realize that the automakers employ millions of their constituents around the country, and if plants are going to be closed and workers laid off, they'll be judged in the next election.

NORRIS: That's NPR's Brian Naylor on Capitol Hill. Brian, thanks so much.

NAYLOR: Thanks, Michele. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

NPR News' Brian Naylor is a correspondent on the Washington Desk. In this role, he covers politics and federal agencies.