Obama panel wants Big 3 to stay afloat

March 16, 2009 at 7:05 PM
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WASHINGTON, March 16 (UPI) -- The Obama administration's so-called car czar said Monday his focus remains on helping steer the Big Three U.S. automakers away from bankruptcy.

"Bankruptcy is not our goal," said Steven Rattner, a Wall Street dealmaker hired by U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner to help oversee the auto industry task force. "I've been in and around bankruptcy for 26 years as part of my private-sector work. It is never a good outcome for any company, and it's never a first choice."

Rattner said the panel's "focus is at this moment" to help automakers solve their problems outside bankruptcy court.

Rattner also told the Detroit Free Press the panel remains committed to meeting the March 31 deadline set under the loan agreements with General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC. The country's third big car maker, Ford Motor Co., is also at the fiscal precipice.

GM and Chrysler want another $21.6 billion in taxpayer help and auto suppliers have petitioned for up to $25.5 billion in aid.

"The supplier problem is very, very urgent," Rattner said. "They have not yet received any government help. They have been left on their own. We need to see if there's some way to help them that is sound and consistent with our overall approach to this industry."

Meanwhile, Rattner told The Detroit News the administration hasn't decided whether to approve a partial merger between Chrysler and Fiat SpA. Fiat is interested in obtaining a 35 percent stake in Chrysler.

"We need to understand better where Fiat is at and whether that is potentially a realistic deal or not before we know where to go next on that one," Rattner said.

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