Page 2 of 2   <      

Automakers Assemble Make-or-Break Case

Chrysler will propose industry-wide collaboration to create advanced-technology vehicles, said people familiar with the plan. Chrysler chief executive Robert L. Nardelli touched on collaboration in testimony before the Senate Banking Committee last month. The government could "create a national science center where rather than paying each of us a dollar to develop the same technology, we'd pay $1," Nardelli said. "That technology would then be transferred over to the auto companies. It would make the $25 billion go further. It would be more cost-effective. If it became a wholly owned affiliate, you can get private equity to invest in it and then market that."

Chrysler also plans to highlight its success in partnering with other companies to expand its product lines, said people familiar with the matter. For instance, this year Chrysler partnered with Nissan to build cars for each other. Chrysler would build a full-size pickup truck for the Japanese automaker in exchange for a small, fuel-efficient car.

Ford, meanwhile, said yesterday that it is considering selling the Swedish automaker Volvo to raise cash to strengthen its balance sheet.

Chief executive Alan R. Mulally also pledged to skip the corporate jet and return to Washington by car.

Some members of Congress had criticized the chief executives for traveling to the first set of hearings by corporate jet. Company spokespeople for Nardelli and GM chief executive G. Richard Wagoner Jr. said the top executives would not fly on company planes this time, but they would not disclose the mode of travel.

Congress may vote on the loan package on Monday, though the source of the money to fund the loans has yet to be determined. Some Democrats are advocating allocating a slice of the Treasury Department's $700 billion financial rescue package. But the Bush administration has stressed its preference for redirecting money from a $25 billion program to build fuel-efficient vehicles.

In recent days, Gutierrez has been working to reverse lawmakers' reluctance to use those fuel-efficiency funds.

"It's important that we not open [the financial rescue package] up other industries," he said. "Because where do we stop?"

<       2

© 2008 The Washington Post Company