該公司最大的供應商之一江森自控(Johnson Controls Inc.)上週五下調了美國的汽車銷售預期﹐將截至9月30日折合成年率的銷售量下調至880萬輛。汽車製造商將在4月1日公佈3月份銷售情況﹐江森自控預計這將是33年來最糟糕的一個3月份。
福特汽車(Ford Motor Co.)一直避免在美國尋求政府資金﹐而且由於另兩家美國汽車公司削減營銷支出並難以為消費者提供融資﹐福特汽車的國內市場份額出現了上升。
John D. Stoll
Detroit Faces Its Critics With Anger and Tears
DETROIT — Just across the city line, AJ’s Music Cafe is hosting a 10-day marathon of live music called the Assembly Line Concert, meant to both help auto workers and set a world record for an uninterrupted performance.
Among the dozens of bands performing this week under banners for the United Automobile Workers union is the unfortunately named “National Ghost.”
It is a label that Detroit and its auto industry are trying to fend off as they rally support for a lifeline from the Obama administration, which appears to be willing to provide more short-term help to General Motors and Chrysler, but is still not ruling out the possibility of letting the companies go bankrupt.
“Detroit is a city that makes things,” said Mary Scheible, a native Detroiter and college guidance counselor at Loyola High, an all-male school in a gritty northside neighborhood.
“I wish people would attempt to understand the kind of person who has worked on the line, and whose father worked on the line, and whose grandfather worked on the line,” she said, her voice breaking as she talked above the din of adolescent chatter. “There is a sense of pride in that.”
The city has been lacking for leaders to give voice to such sentiments. Detroit still has only an acting mayor, Ken Cockrel Jr., after Kwame M. Kilpatrick resigned amid a text-messaging scandal. And the auto companies’ chief executives were chastened last fall, when members of Congress berated them for flying to Congressional hearings on corporate jets.
The state’s logical cheerleader in chief, Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm, has all but disqualified herself by becoming an adviser on the auto bailout to the Obama administration, associating herself with the view expressed by the president in an interview with “60 Minutes” on Sunday that “the only thing less popular than putting money in the banks is putting money into the auto industry.”
In interviews in recent days, a cross-section of Detroiters — often through tears, or with anger and anguish — said they wished they could convince the country that G.M. and Chrysler, and by extension the city, deserved to be saved.
Marty Hershock, the son of a Detroit police officer who grew up in a neighborhood filled with auto workers, said area residents were perplexed by both the nation’s indifference and scorn since the auto companies sought bailouts last fall.
Paul W. Smith, a popular morning show host on WJR-AM, tries to assure listeners that Detroit can survive.
“We’re going to get through all of this, and we’re going to get through it together,” Mr. Smith said last week, as the first streaks of sunlight illuminated the city skyline outside his window in the Fisher Building. “We’re not going to let something like this get the best of us.”
That determination has helped Detroit through numerous boom and bust cycles, said Kevin Boyle, a Detroit native and professor of history at Ohio State University. “Without those true believers, Detroit or any city would become a hollow place,” he said.
But Mr. Smith echoed a common feeling around Detroit that the city was being unfairly bashed by members of Congress who did not understand the contributions it had made.
“The auto executives should have stood up to those guys,” said Dane Fortney, a manager with Lacks Trim Systems, an automotive supplier that makes chrome-plated trim for cars like the Dodge Challenger.
Mr. Fortney, a former high school football player who grew up near a G.M. plant in Ypsilanti, Mich., was upset on Sunday by Mr. Obama’s interview on “60 Minutes,” when he laughed while discussing the unpopularity of auto executives.
“The intelligentsia has never liked this industry since Ralph Nader in the 1960s, and now they’ve got what they wanted,” Mr. Fortney said.
Cesar Muglia is a skilled trades worker at Ford Motor, working the same job that his father, also named Cesar, landed after emigrating from Argentina in the early 1960s.
Even though Ford is not applying for federal aid, Mr. Muglia estimated he had given up $12,000 worth of benefits in recent months, including the tuition assistance he hoped would pay for a master’s degree and a college scholarship for his daughter.
He and other Ford workers also lost cost-of-living increases and other payments when they agreed to concessions this winter that G.M. and Chrysler workers have yet to accept, even though their fates are on the line.
Even so, Mr. Muglia supports government help for Ford’s crosstown rivals, which he said deserve the money more than financial institutions. “These are loans,” he said of the $22 billion in additional money sought by the industry. “Those other industries, those were pretty much handouts.”
But even in Detroit, not everyone is willing to absolve the companies and their union from blame. “I knew we couldn’t keep going up, and up, and up,” said Bishop John Henry Sheard, leader of Bailey Cathedral, which represents 90 chapters of the United Church of God in Christ across Michigan.
Sitting in the chapel of the cathedral on Detroit’s northwest side, Bishop Sheard leveled criticism at both U.A.W. leaders and industry executives for negotiating contracts and accepting salaries he considered far too rich.
Normally, he would oppose the bailout “except to help the people who are suffering right now,” he said. “They need some help, regardless of how they got into that predicament.”
Like many here, Bishop Sheard, a native of Mississippi, is in Detroit because of the auto industry. His father first landed a $5-a-day job at the foundry at Ford’s giant Rouge plant in 1930, one of the few places blacks were allowed to work. Bishop Sheard eventually followed his father north, getting a job not in a car plant but in a car wash where he earned $35 a week. That was still $15 a week more than he received toiling in fields back home.
The chance for opportunity also drew Mr. Hershock’s family from Poland to a neighborhood in southwest Detroit, anchored by St. Hedwig’s Catholic Church. Now 106 years old, the soaring brick church still watches imposingly over a dwindling congregation that now encompasses two parishes, and whose school and convent have long since been sold off.
One day last week, Mr. Hershock, the University of Michigan professor, sat in the pew where his family once worshiped, beneath a stained glass window proclaiming, “Honor Thy Mother and Father.” His students include former auto workers who have been laid off and are trying to build new careers.
Without federal support for Detroit, still more workers could face a similar, uncertain fate, he said.
“They’re thinking, ‘If this happens to me, what’s going to happen to my children?’ ” Mr. Hershock said.
U.S. Expected to Give More Financing to Automakers
DETROIT — The Obama administration will probably extend more short-term aid to General Motors and Chrysler on Monday, but will impose a strict deadline for bondholders and union workers to make concessions that would help the ailing automakers become viable businesses and avert bankruptcy.
President Obama’s auto task force is expected to say that despite its recommendation of more federal assistance for G.M. and Chrysler, bankruptcy could still be a possibility for either company, according to people close to the discussions.
The task force was in its final stages Friday of determining how to keep the two Detroit companies afloat. Meanwhile, the automakers were negotiating retiree health care costs with the United Automobile Workers union, and their debt burden with bondholders and lenders.
But both immediate and longer-term help will be tied to completing the restructurings that G.M. and Chrysler began after receiving $17.4 billion in federal loans.
The administration is expected to set a short deadline — weeks rather than months — to compel the automakers, their lenders and the U.A.W. to reach agreement.
Both G.M. and Chrysler are close to exhausting the loans they received since December. Without more aid soon, the companies could run out of cash to run their vast operations, which employ about 140,000 workers in the United States.
The Obama administration has concluded that both G.M. and Chrysler still require what the president on Thursday called “drastic” and “painful” actions to fix their businesses.
G.M.’s request for up to $16.6 billion more in federal loans will be treated separately from Chrysler’s request for an additional $5 billion, according to administration officials who asked not to be quoted because the deliberations were continuing.
So far, neither company has satisfied the requirements of the original loan agreements with the Bush administration — in particular, the substitution of company stock for 50 percent of the cost of funding retiree health care and reducing their unsecured debt levels by two-thirds.
Mr. Obama, who has been meeting with his advisers in recent days to reach his decision, is planning a formal announcement on Monday at the White House.
The White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, said Friday that the president would not only outline a plan to keep the companies operating in the short term, but would address long-term viability as well.
“How do these companies get through the global recession that sees a great decrease in demand for the product?” Mr. Gibbs said. “And how, when we emerge from recession to recovery, how do we have a sustainable path that makes good business decisions not just for one year but for many years?”
Mr. Obama met twice on Thursday with Steven Rattner and Ronald Bloom, the former investment bankers who lead the auto task force, but there are still some remaining issues to be resolved before Monday’s announcement, Mr. Gibbs said. Mr. Obama left Friday for Camp David, the presidential retreat, and will make the final decision on his plan there, Mr. Gibbs said.
The announcement on Monday will usher in a more intensive period of oversight by the government of G.M. and Chrysler, which lost a combined $38 billion in 2008, when United States vehicle sales fell to their lowest level in more than 25 years.
The third Detroit car company, Ford Motor Company, has, so far, not sought direct federal assistance. Ford, which lost more than $14 billion last year, has repeatedly said it had enough cash to finance its own broad restructuring efforts.
Mr. Obama and his top auto advisers have stressed that the administration would do everything in its power to prevent a sudden bankruptcy of the big automakers, which could set off cascading failures throughout the industry’s extensive supply chain and dealer networks.
“We need to preserve a U.S. auto industry,” the president said Thursday in a town hall event conducted over the Internet. “We will provide them with some help.”
But the president’s task force will continue to consider a government-managed bankruptcy as a final resort for both G.M. and Chrysler, according to people familiar with the deliberations.
The threat of bankruptcy is intended to accelerate talks between the troubled automakers and their biggest creditors.
Under the terms of its original loans, G.M. must substitute company stock for half of the $20 billion it owes to a new health care trust for retired union workers and surviving spouses.
G.M. also needs to reduce its $27 billion in unsecured debt by two-thirds. So far, a committee representing some bondholders has balked at an offer estimated at as low as 15 cents on the dollar value of the bonds.
The company declined to comment Friday on the talks, except to say they were continuing, according to a G.M. spokeswoman.
Chrysler is facing similar terms with its lenders and the union.
People familiar with the task force discussions said the Monday announcement would set very specific targets and conditions for G.M. and Chrysler to meet separately.
The companies are due to submit their own progress reports on the restructuring plans they initially gave the government last month.
G.M., however, may be forced to alter its plan somewhat. The plan currently calls for the elimination of 47,000 jobs worldwide and a significant reduction in brands, models and dealerships.
Chrysler has released one plan to exist as a stand-alone company, and an alternative one that includes joining forces with the Italian auto company Fiat.
The task force has not ruled out supporting a Fiat alliance for Chrysler but is intent on keeping all options open for the company, including revival of previous merger talks between Chrysler and G.M. at some point.
Administration officials have said the bailout of the automakers is at a turning point, and the task force would intensify its oversight of G.M. and Chrysler until talks with the union and bondholders reached a conclusion.
Those officials also said the administration had no intention of nationalizing the auto companies or taking direct control of their managements.