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Detroit's Big Three Want Big Bucks

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

As auto sales hit their worst levels in a quarter century, top U.S. auto executives met with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi yesterday. They're asking for $25 billion in federal loans. That's on top of the 25 billion Congress already approved to help car makers develop technology that's more fuel efficient. NPR's Frank Langfitt reports.

FRANK LANGFITT: General Motors is burning through a billion dollars each month. Sales at Chrysler were down nearly 35 percent in October. After yesterday's closed door meetings, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement, it was quote "essential that we preserve our manufacturing and technology base." But where Detroit's plea for money goes from here isn't yet clear. Pelosi wants lame duck session this month to pass a giant stimulus bill to kick start the economy. The automakers are lobbying for money in such a bill to help them weather the recession. Some members of the public say the government shouldn't bail out another sector that has created some of its own problems. But Michigan Congressman Dale Kildee says a bankruptcy would cause job losses across the country. Kildee, a Democrat who co-chairs the congressional automotive caucus worked on the Chrysler bailout in the late 1970s.

Representative DALE E. KILDEE (Democrat, Michigan): When I was a co-sponsor of the Chrysler loan guarantee, one of my jobs is to find congressional districts that were affected by the auto industry. I hardly found any that we're not.

LANGFITT: For their part, car executives insist they have better models in the pipeline. They say they just need government help to make it until then. Frank Langfitt, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Frank Langfitt is NPR's London correspondent. He covers the UK and Ireland, as well as stories elsewhere in Europe.

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