Wednesday, December 10, 2008

American carmakers: A deal for Detroit?

Congress appears poised to agree upon a temporary bail-out for troubled American carmakers

THERE are two ways of fixing a broken-down car. A nut-and-bolt restoration of the whole vehicle would return it to top condition, whereas a patch-up of the worst problems might keep it on the road. Late on Monday December 8th congressional Democrats agreed in principle to opt for the latter fix, putting off big repairs, but making available $15 billion in emergency loans, perhaps in exchange for some shares in the companies. It is unclear, however, whether the Bush administration will support the deal.

Car bosses have spent as much time in Washington, DC, as they have in Detroit of late, trying to convince lawmakers of the urgent need for cash to keep their industry alive. And they learned a little about politics along the way. A first visit to hold out the begging bowl was ill-received, not least because the beggars whizzed in on corporate jets. For the second round of congressional investigation they opted to drive in green vehicles. That piece of belated PR and the prospect that General Motors and Chrysler could go bust before the year ends prompted lawmakers to dip into a previously approved fund which is intended to help carmakers build more fuel-efficient vehicles. ...