Government lends a hand to autos

New GM Chevrolet trucks sit on the lot at a General Motors plant

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Scott Jagow: This morning's hot topic: the car industry.
Based on several reports, it looks like the government is talking with GM and Chrysler about giving them some help. But not a bailout, ala Chrysler back in 1980. Our correspondent in Washington, Nancy Marshall Genzer, joins us. Nancy, OK then, what kind of help then?

Nancy Marshall Genzer: At this point, Scott, it looks like it would be a loan -- a $5 billion loan. And that would come from the $25 billion in low-interest loans Congress approved for the auto industry already. The loan would be administered by the Energy Department. Now, there are a couple of other possibilities. The Treasury Department could use its authority under the $700 billion bailout package to help, although it's not clear what form that would take.

Jagow: OK, so what would GM and Chrysler plan to do with this loan?

Marshall Genzer: They want to merge -- GM and Cerberus Capital Management, of course, which owns Chrysler. And one analyst from Citigroup says a merger would cost $10 [billion] to $12 billion, because if you think about it, there are almost 100,000 factory workers working for both automakers. They have 11 different brands, 10,000 different dealers. There would definitely be some consolidation there, and initially that would cost money.

Jagow: And why would the government want to do this?

Marshall Genzer: Well, the automakers are in big trouble, and they are a major industry in the U.S. Moody's just cut its rating on GM bonds to junk status. Ford is also in junk status. So they're in real trouble, and they say if they went under, a lot of people and industries would be affected. So they say the government really needs to help them, or they could drag other businesses with them.

Jagow: Nancy Marshall Genzer in Washington. Thank you.

Marshall Genzer: You're welcome.

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