November 7, 2008 / 8:39 PM / 11 years ago

Obama says automakers a high priority of transition

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President-elect Barack Obama said on Friday help for the distressed U.S. auto industry is a high priority of his transition.

Obama, in Chicago at his first formal news conference since Tuesday’s election victory, urged the Bush administration to do “everything it can” to accelerate disbursement of $25 billion in advanced technology loans to the industry.

Automakers were eligible on Thursday to begin applying for that assistance, but they do not believe the help is robust enough or will be available soon enough to help them through the industry’s unprecedented downturn.

Obama also said: “I have made it a high priority for my transition team to work on additional policy options to help the auto industry adjust, weather the financial crisis, and succeed in producing fuel efficient cars here in the United States.”

General Motors Corp, Ford Motor Co and Chrysler LLC are seeking a federal bailout to survive as their sales collapse during the steep global economic downturn.

GM said on Friday it burned through $6.9 billion in cash in the third quarter and issued a stark warning on future liquidity.

The developments raised the stakes in Detroit’s push for $50 billion in government-backed loans for the auto sector. Chief executives of GM, Ford and Chrysler met congressional leaders on Thursday to discuss the prospects of immediate help.

Reporting by John Crawley, editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Andre Grenon

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