Detroit seeks billions more from feds

The leaders of General Motors, Ford, Chrysler and the president of the United Auto Workers union came to Capitol Hill on Thursday to discuss billions of dollars more in financial help for the companies, which have struggled under a weakened economy.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was meeting with the chief executives of Detroit's automakers to hear their expected plea for an additional $25 billion in federal loans for future health care payments for retirees.

Pelosi told reporters at the start of the meeting that they would discuss “how we can work together to go forward to ensure the viability of that important industry, looking out for the taxpayer and looking out for the worker.”

The executives also plan to seek help in accessing money from the Treasury Department or the Federal Reserve.

Congress last month approved $25 billion in low-interest loans for domestic automakers and suppliers to retool plants to build fuel-efficient vehicles. But congressional allies of the industry have said the money will not be available fast enough to help the companies.

U.S. auto sales declined to their lowest level in more than 17 years last month, prompting some auto executives to predict dire consequences if the economy doesn't improve.

The companies are hoping Pelosi will include funding for the industry in an economic stimulus package if she decides to call the House back in for a lame-duck session.

Alan Reuther, the UAW's legislative director, said the executives and UAW president Ron Gettelfinger “will be making the case why additional assistance from the federal government is needed to help the companies through this severe economic credit crisis.”

The Pelosi meeting with Chrysler CEO Bob Nardelli, Ford CEO Alan Mulally and GM Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner comes at a precarious time for the industry. General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. are expected to post dismal third-quarter results today that will show losses in the billions of dollars. Additional job cuts by both automakers also are expected today.