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Panel II of a Hearing of the House Financial Services Committee - Stabilizing the Financial Condition of the American Automobile Industry

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Location: Washington, DC

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REP. JUDY BIGGERT (R-IL): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Like Mr. Ehlers that just asked a question, for years many of us in Congress have been pushing for technologies in our national labs like Argonne in my district that can help you, I think, provide what the consumers want, which is energy efficient cars. And I think many of us grew so weary of the lack of progress that we voted for CAFE standards, which is something I thought I would never do.

But Americans don't want to buy the expensive cars, pay for the high fuel cost, and be dependent on foreign oil. In fact, I had a Jeep for 11 years, which served me well, but when I wanted to buy a new one I couldn't get a hybrid; no Jeeps were made for that.

So why should we be bailing you out now when, you know, you've really been dragging your feet, I think, on the kind of cars that are in the 21st century and aren't being made? So are you not selling cars because no one wants cars that get 12 miles to the gallon or because of lack of financing? I'll start with you, Mr. Nardelli, since I talked about the Jeep.

MR. NARDELLI: We have -- we have six or seven cars that are getting over 28 miles per gallon. Our Caliber is getting 30 miles per gallon. We are working feverishly -- we'll spend probably in excess of a billion dollars this year on technology to improve our fuel efficiency on the combustion engine. We spent over $350 million in our efforts to develop a hybrid. We'll spend almost an equal amount as we announced in September three electric vehicles, one from each brand -- Dodge, Chrysler and Jeep. And one of those vehicles will be in the marketplace in 2010.

REP. BIGGERT: But that's still two years.

Mr. Wagoner?

MR. WAGONER: We have 20 models that get more than 30 miles per gallon highway, more than twice any other manufacturer today. We have six hybrid models. We'll offer three more next year. We're the global leader in biofuel vehicles. And obviously we have a significant commitment to the electric vehicle with cars like the Volt and fuel cells. So I think we have a good story to tell and we're going to keep trying to tell it. Many of our new cars, like the Chevy Malibu in the midsize class, have better fuel economy than the Japanese competitors.

So I think we're very -- very much -- (off mike).

REP. BIGGERT: Mr. Mulally.

MR. MULALLY: Yes, nothing else to add on the competitiveness. We have a terrific lineup. And to your question, the entire industry is down and all the manufacturers, whether they are the three Detroit companies or the Japanese, all have -- their sales are all off, along with the credit and the economy. So I think we're all in this together.

REP. BIGGERT: Then what -- would a bailout loan to your companies go to your finance or to the operations arms? Just want to go down the line.

MR. NARDELLI (?): We're talking about now is support for the operating side of the business.

REP. BIGGERT: Okay. What percentage of a loan would go towards financing consumer auto loans, to start moving inventory?

MR. MULLALY (?): Right now none of the money that we're asking for today would go towards loans. We are working a very aggressive and parallel path with our affiliate finance companies to either get bank holding status, to get ILC approval, to be able to gain access to the window so that they can reach the secondary market, increase liquidity, and gain capacity.

REP. BIGGERT: Okay. Well I've heard that some of the loans that are being made are 9 percent loans, but that somebody has to have a 750 FICO score to qualify for those loans.

MR. WAGONER: I think it's fair to say that the consumer -- the requirements for consumers are much tougher today to be eligible for loans. That's absolutely true.

REP. BIGGERT: Wouldn't that -- then how are you going to sell cars?

MR. WAGONER: Well we're, that's one of the things that's contributing to the lower industry sales, but as Mr. Nardelli said our finance companies cannot access significant credit.

And then the ability to sell -- what they usually do is take these loans, package them together and sell them into the financial markets. And that ability -- the asset-backed security market has radically shrunk and is very demanding on only buying high-credit paper. So it's part of a system problem, and we're doing everything we can to try to help people be able to afford cars.

REP. BIGGERT: Well, how would you do that? And I mean, if you're going to take a bailout to make sure that -- for the operations and yet you're not going to have to people that are going to be able to afford to buy the car even if you -- you know, if you improved this.

MR. WAGONER: What we're trying to do is work with other potential sources of credit; we talked earlier about working, for example, credit unions, which traditionally have wanted to be bigger players in automotive finance. And we've got some positive input from that. But if we're successful, for example, in our case of achieving a bank holding company status at GMAC, then they will be able to take more deposits, reduce their costs of funds, and be significantly more aggressive in consumer financing.

REP. BIGGERT: Just one other quick question. How many of your dealers are not getting paid? Are they all being paid or is there -- are you withholding any of the money from them?

MR. WAGONER: No.

REP. BIGGERT: They're all being paid on time?

MR. WAGONER: Yes.

REP. BIGGERT: Okay. Thank you.

I yield back.

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