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U.S. automakers hope Obama will bring aid

By The Associated Press Published: November 6, 2008
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DETROIT — Detroit automakers and their allies in Congress said Wednesday Barack Obama’s victory could help U.S. automakers line up federal funding needed for them to survive a terrible economic slump.

Obama made it clear during his campaign that he understood the automakers’ problems and would work to preserve the industry, U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said Wednesday.

"I’m very optimistic that we’re going to have a fighter in the White House for manufacturers, and that’s what we need,” Levin said. He said he was told Wednesday by Jason Furman, Obama’s senior economic adviser, that government aid is atop Obama’s agenda.

Levin said the Obama adviser did not commit to a specific funding path for the industry but was generally supportive.

Meeting is promised

Obama has said he will meet with industry leaders and the United Auto Workers immediately to talk about helping automakers, but auto industry officials said a meeting had not yet been scheduled.

Levin said Obama expressed support for doubling an Energy Department loan program for automakers to develop fuel-saving technology to $50 billion from $25 billion.

The senator said he and members of Michigan’s congressional delegation would pursue several funding options to help the industry, including the $700 billion Wall Street bailout or access to capital from the Federal Reserve.

More cuts expected

Further cuts by both automakers are expected on Friday, and GM’s top executives sent an e-mail to other executives Wednesday saying that "important changes” will be announced just after the quarterly results are made available.

Auto jobs

The Center for Automotive Research published a report Wednesday estimating that about 2.5 million jobs across the economy would disappear in the first year if the U.S. auto industry shrinks by 50 percent. Only 239,000 of those job losses would be at the Detroit Three — the remainder would be at parts suppliers and other related industries, the center said.

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