Thursday, September 25, 2008

ARCO completes $10M Visteon facilty in Eureka

ARCO Construction Co. recently completed design-build work on a $10 million manufacturing and distribution facility in Eureka, Mo., that will supply Chrysler's St. Louis North Assembly Plant with interior finish products, the company announced Friday.

Global automotive supplier Visteon Corp. (NYSE: VC) is leasing and operating the 217,000-square-foot office, manufacturing and distribution facility in Eureka Commercial Park. The new facility will help Visteon's manufacturing capabilities meet Chrysler's production schedule at Chrysler's North Assembly Plant in nearby Fenton, Mo.

The plant has 14,500 square feet of office space and 202,500 square feet of manufacturing/distribution space. The plant's employees, expected to be about 240 people, will produce cockpit modules, consoles, door trim and instrument panels.

Visteon, located in Van Buren Township, Mich., designs, engineers and manufactures products for vehicle manufacturers.

Joining ARCO on the project are Gateway Homebuilders, developer; GMA Design Group Inc., architect; Cole & Associates Inc., civil engineer; McNealy Engineers, structural engineer; Kaemmerlen Electric Co. and Kaiser Electric Inc., electrical engineers; Icon Mechanical, mechanical engineer; Kent Plumbing Inc., plumbing contractor; Fire Tech LLC, fire suppression contractor; and CB Richard Ellis, commercial real estate broker.

St. Louis-based ARCO Construction specializes in design-build office buildings, warehouse distribution centers, speculative warehouse buildings, health-care and medical development and construction, retail facilities, cold storage warehouses, commercial housing projects and light industrial projects.

Introducing: 2009 Dodge Ram Lone Star Edition

calendar (1K) Posted Thursday, Sep 25, 2008 at 12:55 pm in Company News

At the State Fair of Texas today, Dodge will introduce the all-new 2009 Lone Star Edition Dodge Ram 1500, a Texas-exclusive model in the 2009 Dodge Ram lineup. The new truck arrives this month with a truck-load of special equipment and enhancements.

“Texas is the single largest truck market on the planet for Dodge,” said Mike Accavitti, Director –- Dodge Division, Chrysler LLC. “Texans love their trucks, and Dodge gives them more to love with a special edition of our game-changing 2009 Dodge Ram – already the best pickup available anywhere. With the Dodge Ram Lone Star, Texans get style, performance, utility and even more value.”

The all-new 2009 Lone Star Edition Dodge Ram begins as a Ram Crew 1500 SLT model in either two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive, with more than 35 new or improved features when compared to the previous light-duty Dodge Ram. These features include:

  • Dodge Ram’s first-ever crew-cab size model
  • First-in-segment coil-spring, five-link rear suspension fitted to a solid rear axle provides the required towing and payload capability, with ride and handling unexpected in a pickup truck
  • New 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 provides more horsepower (390 hp) and torque (407 lb.-ft.), with increased fuel economy (20 mpg on the 4×2 model)
  • Best-in-class aerodynamics – under .40 Cd – help improve fuel economy and performance
  • First-in-segment, RamBox™ cargo management system that includes versatile, weatherproof, lockable, illuminated, drainable storage bins; pickup bed dividers; 2-foot bed extender; and cargo rail system with sliding, adjustable cleats
  • First-in-segment, factory-installed 4-inch dual exhaust styled dramatically into the rear bumper
  • First-in-segment store-in-the-floor bins
  • Nearly twice as many storage bins (42) than the previous model (26)
  • Standard front and rear side-curtain air bags, four-wheel Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) and Electronic Stability Program (ESP)
  • Significantly upgraded interiors

The all-new 2009 Lone Star Edition package includes the new 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 mated to a five-speed automatic transmission, chromed 4-inch dual exhaust radiused into the rear bumper, 20-inch painted silver wheels (20-inch chromed wheels are available), chromed grille surround with chromed billets, quad headlamps and fog lamps.

In addition, a lighting group includes leather-wrapped steering wheel with integrated audio controls, signal- and puddle-lamp exterior mirrors, interior mirror with auto-dim feature, overhead console, illuminated visor vanity, ash-tray lamp, lighted glove box, and underhood and dome lamps. Topping off the package is unique Lone Star badging on the tailgate.

MSRP for the Lone Star equipment is $1,500. All 2009 Lone Star Edition Dodge Rams must also be equipped with the 5.7-liter HEMI V-8. This $1,310 option, added to the $1,500 equipment price, brings the total price of the Lone Star package to $2,810. (If the package components were priced individually, the value would be $3,560.)

The all-new 2009 Lone Star Edition Dodge Ram is built at the St. Louis North Assembly Plant in Fenton, Mo., and the Warren Truck Assembly Plant in Warren, Mich.

Chrysler really threw their hat into the electric vehicle ring today, revealing not one, not two, but three electric or semi-electric vehicles. The one getting all the eyeballs, of course, is the Chrysler EV (real creative name there), which is all-electric, based on a Lotus Elise, and does 0-60 in five seconds. Of course, that one probably won’t ever enter production, or if it does will probably cost far more than a “regular” Elise. More after the link.

The others are more interesting to me. There’s a minivan, which is a savvy move considering families are probably being hit by high gas prices more than any others. And there’s a Jeep. Well, it’s not a real Jeep, it’s one of those new, ugly Jeeps. These cars will be “range extended,” a phrase which unfortunately calls up images of extra-long stoves, while actually meaning that these cars will only go about 40 miles before switching over to a gas engine. Well, it’s a step up from regular hybrids, but that still puts a lot of pressure on the gas engine. After all, if you drive 40 miles to work, you’ll be lucky to have a full charge at the garage before you head home 8 hours later.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

UPDATE 3-Daimler may sell remaining Chrysler stake

(Adds Cerberus statement, analyst comment, byline)

By Poornima Gupta

DETROIT, Sept 24 (Reuters) - Daimler AG (DAIGn.DE: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) is in talks with private equity group Cerberus Capital Management to sell its remaining 19.9 percent stake in struggling U.S. automaker Chrysler LLC.

Cerberus, which bought 80.1 percent of Chrysler in May 2007 in a $7.4 billion deal just before a sharp slowdown in overall U.S. auto sales, said on Wednesday it had approached Daimler for a possible sale.

It is unclear at this time how much Daimler's stake in Chrysler would be worth. Daimler said in July the book value of its stake was 171 million euros.

The move comes as Chrysler faces scrutiny over whether it has the cash to ride out a downturn in U.S. auto sales that many analysts expect to stretch through 2009.

"It's still very early to tell why this is happening," Aaron Bragman, auto analyst at Global Insight, said.

Bragman said it was unclear what had prompted the sale talks between the two Chrysler stakeholders, adding that it was possible Daimler had decided to cut its losses or was taking advantage of an unpublicized provision of the original sale contract.

"Maybe it's a prelude to Cerberus taking total control before a sale to a third party," Bragman said. "We will just have to wait and see."

In the event of a deal, all existing industrial relationships between Daimler and Chrysler would continue, Cerberus said.

Daimler and Chrysler, for example, have a partnership on hybrid technology, and also the axles from a new Chrysler parts plant in Michigan are expected to go into Daimler's M-Class Mercedes SUV.

Daimler, which confirmed it was in talks with Cerberus, sold a majority of its Chrysler stake after facing shareholder criticism over the steep losses posted by the U.S. automaker. The German automaker now focuses on its commercial trucks and Mercedes-Benz luxury brand.

The news of the talks between Cerberus and Daimler came a day after Chrysler showed off a trio of electric vehicles in development -- including battery-powered versions of its popular minivan and Jeep Wrangler -- as it tries to revamp its image and revive demand for its vehicles.

Chrysler, like its U.S. rivals General Motors Corp (GM.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) and Ford Motor Co (F.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), has been hit hard by the sharp decline in sales of pickup trucks, SUVs and vans that followed the rise in gas prices.

Chrysler's U.S. sales have fallen nearly 25 percent through the first eight months of the year, the largest decline of any major U.S. automaker. Light trucks account for nearly 70 percent of Chrysler's volume at a time when consumers are moving towards smaller and more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Also, Chrysler has relied on the U.S. market for almost 90 percent of its overall sales of cars and light trucks in 2007, a higher percentage than its Detroit-based rivals GM and Ford, which have been able to count on gains in emerging markets to offset losses at home.

The automaker, which lost $1.6 billion in 2007, posted an additional $400 million loss during the first half of this year.

Chrysler, which is restructuring its operations, has been closing plants and cutting jobs amid the sales slump. It has also identified nearly $1 billion in nonearning assets for sale to raise cash for operations.

Chrysler Chief Executive Bob Nardelli said on Tuesday he was "very confident" in Chrysler's business plan and liquidity position. (Additional reporting by Kevin Krolicki, editing by Leslie Gevirtz, Andre Grenon, Richard Chang)

UPDATE 2-Daimler may sell remaining Chrysler stake

(Adds details on Chrysler's operations, results)

DETROIT, Sept 24 (Reuters) - Daimler AG (DAIGn.DE: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) said on Wednesday it was in talks with private equity group Cerberus Capital Management to sell its remaining 19.9 percent stake in struggling U.S. automaker Chrysler LLC.

Cerberus bought 80.1 percent of Chrysler in May 2007 in a $7.4 billion deal just before a sharp slowdown in overall U.S. auto sales.

It is unclear at this time how much Daimler's stake in Chrysler would be worth. Daimler said in July the book value of its stake was 171 million euros.

Representative for Cerberus and Daimler could not be immediately reached.

The move comes as Chrysler faces scrutiny over whether it has the cash to ride out a downturn in U.S. auto sales that many analysts expect to stretch through 2009.

Chrysler's U.S. sales have declined nearly 25 percent through the first eight months of the year, the largest decline of any major U.S. automaker. Light trucks account for nearly 70 percent of Chrysler's volume at a time when consumers are moving towards smaller and more fuel-efficient vehicles.

The automaker, which is restructuring its operations, has been closing plants and cutting jobs amid the sales slump. It has also identified nearly $1 billion in non-earning assets for sale to raise cash for operations.

Chrysler Chief Executive Bob Nardelli said on Tuesday he was "very confident" in Chrysler's business plan and liquidity position.

The automaker, which has released limited financial data since Cerberus bought it, has said it ended June with $11.7 billion in cash and had earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization of $1.1 billion in the first half of the year. (Reporting by Poornima Gupta, editing by Leslie Gevirtz and Andre Grenon)

Cerberus set to buy rest of Chrysler - report

FRANKFURT, Sept 24 (Reuters) - Private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management [CBS.UL] is in talks to buy the remaining 19.9 percent stake in U.S. carmaker Chrysler LLC still held by Daimler AG (DAIGn.DE: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), Germany's Manager Magazin reported.

Citing unidentified company sources, the magazine said on Wednesday that final details were being worked out and a sale could be possible within weeks.

Cerberus bought 80.1 percent of Chrysler in May 2007 in a $7.4 billion deal struck just before turmoil erupted on financial markets, which has led in turn to a sharp slowdown in U.S. car sales.

This Day in Auto History:


Automobile Quarterly
Automobile Quarterly

The Daimler Motoren-Gesellschaft takes delivery of its first magneto ignition system as designated by Gottlob Honold and Robert Bosch
The Goodyear Tyre & Rubber Company (Great Britain) Ltd. is registered in Wolverhampton, England
The Honda Motor Company Ltd. is founded
Richard H. Grant, Vice President of Chevrolet 1924-1929 and Vice President of General Motors 1929-1944, dies at age 78
The 1964 Oldsmobiles are introduced

Source: Automobile History Day By Day, by Douglas A. Wick


Oil prices hold gains after government reports surprise decline in crude inventories and bigger drop in gasoline supplies.

Chrysler Financial Selects Trintech's AssureNET GL to Automate and Control Key Accounting Activities and ReconNET for High Volume Transaction Reconciliations By PR Newswire

DALLAS and DUBLIN, Ireland, Sept. 22 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Trintech Group Plc (Nasdaq: TTPA), a leading global provider of integrated financial governance, transaction risk management, and compliance solutions, today announced that Chrysler Financial has selected AssureNET GL to automate the review, approval, and status tracking of account reconciliations and manage the accounting close process and ReconNET for high volume transaction matching.

Chrysler Financial headquarters in Farmington Hills, Mich., serves as the center of activity for operations in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and Venezuela. It's through this hub that all aspects of the company's financing and insurance business are initiated. For more than 40 years, Chrysler Financial has provided a complete line of world-class automotive financial products and services to the dealers and consumers of Chrysler, Jeep(R) and Dodge vehicles.

"We've chosen AssureNET GL to replace a manual review of account files using spreadsheets, and through the self-documenting workflow and analysis tool, we'll manage our entire GL reconciliation process," said Mark Davis, Assistant Controller -- Chrysler Financial.

Graphic: Chrysler's electric contenders

September 24, 2008

Chrysler leaps into electric vehicle race

Behind thrill is risk over U.S. loans, battery


Chrysler LLC looked like its old, scrappy self Tuesday in announcing ambitious plans to develop a full lineup of electric-drive vehicles, one of which it says will be ready for sale by the end of 2010.

The move immediately and surprisingly puts Chrysler in the race to develop an electric car along with General Motors Corp. and others by 2010 and gives the Auburn Hills automaker something exciting to talk about after a year of dramatically scaling back its business.

The announcement also comes as Chrysler, GM and Ford Motor Co. are lobbying the U.S. government for at least $25 billion in loans to help retool so they can make more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Unlike GM's Chevrolet Volt, Chrysler is working on range-extended electric vehicles based on current models -- the four-door Jeep Wrangler and the Chrysler Town & Country minivan.

In addition, Chrysler is proposing an all-electric Dodge sports car based on the underpinnings of a Lotus that would run 150 to 200 miles on a fully charged battery.

"This shows that our commitment is not to public relations but to actually advancing technology, putting it in the hands of customers in an affordable manner. That's probably why you may be surprised how quickly we got to this point," Jim Press, a Chrysler president and vice chairman, told reporters Tuesday. "These are vehicles that are being engineered to move from the laboratory into the street."

The announcement was greeted in Detroit by surprise and praise but also skepticism and cautions that -- as with GM's effort -- future electric vehicles depend on the development of unproven lithium-ion battery technology.

"That's really aggressive," said Erich Merkle, an industry analyst with Crowe Chizek and Co. "It's really going to come down to: Is the battery technology there? Is it ready? And can you scale it?"

Chrysler Chief Executive Officer Bob Nardelli said Tuesday's unveiling was intended to give a glimpse at the automaker's near future and demonstrate how serious Chrysler is about bringing electric vehicles to customers.

"We're developing a full portfolio. ... I think that's what's uniquely different about today's announcement," he said. "We're not talking about a car -- we're talking about a full line."

Nardelli and other auto execs have been in Washington to lobby lawmakers for loans that were promised last year as part of legislation to increase fuel-efficiency standards.

"It's crucial that our government works with us -- with the American companies -- to develop this technology, not only in making sure they approve the funding, but the laws and regulations allow us to have access to that funding, specifically for advance technology and innovation," Nardelli said.

Asked how the electric program would be affected if Congress refused to issue loans, Nardelli said: "Then we'll have to face the tough decision. We will, and all of us -- all of the U.S. manufacturers -- are going to have to make some very tough trade-offs because it is not optional relative to continuing environmentally friendly, energy-independent vehicles for our customers here in this country."

When Chrysler hinted at future electric cars during the Detroit auto show last January, many analysts were skeptical.

Some Chrysler dealers even quietly complained to the Free Press about their concerns that Chrysler wasn't moving quickly enough into electric vehicles, especially as GM generated glowing media coverage for its Volt, a car unveiled in 2007 and planned for sale in late 2010.

On Tuesday, Chrysler showed its independent dealers from across the country video footage of the electric-drive cars and other future vehicles.

"I think there are a lot of guys breathing a big sigh of relief today," said Jim Arrigo, owner of a dealership in West Palm Beach, Fla., and cochairman of Chrysler's dealer council.

Chrysler's sales are down more than 20% this year and the automaker has been undergoing changes on all fronts since going private last year.

The company is shedding more than 28,000 jobs, has cut four models and taken out 1.1 million units of production. Even Chrysler's halo, the Dodge Viper sports car program, is up for sale.

But with Tuesday's announcement, Chrysler appears to be trying to create a new buzz with the all-electric Dodge sports car. The two-seater, which has yet to be named, is going to be fast: The company says it will go from zero to 60 miles per hour in less than five seconds.

It's also quiet. Riding inside the tight cockpit is like jetting down the road in a supercharged golf cart. Tom LaSorda, a Chrysler president and vice chairman, said Chrysler is partnering with Lotus on the sports car.

The vehicle would plug into a typical 110-volt or 120-volt electric outlet and its lithium-ion batteries would be recharged within six to eights hours, Chrysler said. A 220-volt or 240-volt outlet could be used to cut the charging time in half.

"We will have partnerships on the batteries," said Frank Klegon, Chrysler executive vice president for product development. "We're working with more than one potential supplier on the battery side now."

LaSorda confirmed that Chrysler is in talks with A123 Systems Inc., a potential supplier to GM's Volt project, along with other battery makers.

Chrysler's two range-extended vehicles, which are in the same vein of development as GM's Volt, would run on electricity, too, but would each have a backup, gas-burning engine to generate electricity when the battery charge runs out.

Klegon said both the Jeep and minivan range-extended vehicles would be able to drive 40 miles on a single battery charge before the generator kicks in, giving the vehicles 400 miles of total range.

Chrysler executives said that one of the three vehicles would go on sale by the end of 2010 in North America and shortly after that in Europe, but they declined to say which one or what the prices might be.

Aaron Bragman, an industry analyst with Global Insight, was impressed, especially with the proposed minivan, calling it brilliant.

"It presents an interesting case for families, people who are looking for budget-conscious transportation that want to eliminate their fuel bill or drop it significantly," Bragman said. "It's the kind of thing we expected from Chrysler in previous years that they haven't shown much of recently, which is basically zigging when everyone else zags."

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Chrysler '08 loss $400 million through Aug: report: report

(Reuters) - U.S. automaker Chrysler LLC on Tuesday told dealers it had lost $400 million so far this year, the Wall Street Journal said.

Chief Executive Robert Nardelli told dealers that despite cutting costs, Chrysler was still losing money, according to two people at a session for dealers where the figures were released, the paper said.

The company added that sales fell 24 percent through August and it had $11 billion in cash, the paper said, citing the people at the session.

A Chrysler spokesman declined to comment on the remarks, saying the meeting was "confidential." He said Chrysler was meeting or exceeding its financial targets but acknowledged the company was "not in the black on a net basis," the paper said.

A company spokesperson could not be immediately reached for comment by Reuters.

Chrysler, run by private equity house Cerberus CBS.UL, lost $1.6 billion in 2007.

The company has unveiled prototypes of new electric cars as it hopes to shake an association with gas-guzzling trucks and dispel doubts about the strength of its vehicle development program.

But Nardelli also warned that without approval for a $25 billion loan package before Congress, the automaker could be forced to cut jobs and costs more deeply to free up funds for its electric car campaign.

(Reporting by Savio D'Souza in Bangalore; editing by Sue Thomas)

Chrysler to make an electric-drive Jeep Wrangler

Chrysler LLC is expected to unveil three electric-drive vehicles today, one of which is a Jeep Wrangler sport utility vehicle. The Wrangler is made at the Toledo Jeep Assembly complex.

The announcement is to be made this afternoon, although news reports indicate a Wrangler would be one of the vehicles. The plan includes a plug-in electric sportscar for the Dodge label. One of the vehicles will be available for sale by 2010, but the company hasn’t said which one.

Tom LaSorda, a Chrysler president and vice chairman, told the Detroit Free Press that the automaker has been developing the vehicles for about 20 months.
“The teams have been working on it for some time. We’ve had these products in the pipeline,” he said.

“We said we’ll take something more bold on the electric — all electric,” LaSorda told the newspaper. “On the range-extended, we didn’t want to spend the time on developing an all new platform, an all new car and then an all new propulsion system.

“We said we’ve got two icons for our company, a Wrangler, which is the icon for the Jeep brand, and the minivan, there’s 11 million-plus which we’ve sold. And people would say, ‘My god, they brought green to a minivan and Wrangler, this is unbelievable.’”

The range-extended vehicles, which are in the same vein of development as electric Volt being developed by General Motors Corp., would run on electricity but would have a back-up gas-burning motor to generate electricity once the battery charge runs out.

“Wow!” said a surprised Bruce Baumhower, president of United Auto Workers Local 12, which represents about 3,400 workers at Toledo Jeep. “We’re excited that they’re doing something to help our products in the marketplace.”

Sales of the Wrangler nearly doubled in 2007 when Chrysler rolled out a four-door version of the iconic sport utility vehicle, but returned to more historic sales levels this year of between 60,000 and 80,000 units as high gas prices ravaged SUV sales. An environmentally-friendly version of the original SUV could help reignite interest in the vehicle.

Chrysler and Lotus may develop electric sports car

Automotive News Alert September 23, 2008
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Richard Truett

DETROIT -- Chrysler LLC and England's Lotus Cars Ltd. are in talks to produce an electric sports car based on the Lotus Elise.
Frank Klegon, Chrysler executive vice president of product development, told Automotive News this morning that the sports car -- called the Dodge EV -- would go from 0 to 60 mph in under five seconds.
"Lotus has a lot of experience with lightweight vehicles and aluminum structures," Klegon said on the sidelines of a Chrysler press event. "We have experience with propulsion systems."
It was not immediately clear what time frame Chrysler was pursuing for the vehicle.
Lotus already plays a major role in an electric car being built by California startup company Tesla Motors Inc. The $109,000 Tesla Roadster also is based on the Lotus Elise. Tesla ...


Chrysler May Use Batteries by A123

Chrysler LLC, in a rush to develop new, fuel-efficient vehicles, is in advanced talks about using batteries made by A123 Systems Inc. in an electric car due to be launched by 2011, people familiar with the matter said.

Chrysler, which now depends on trucks, sport-utility vehicles and minivans for 75% of its sales, is scheduled to demonstrate its battery-powered car for the first time in public Tuesday.

A123, Watertown, Mass., is a seven-year-old company vying to break into the nascent market for lithium-ion battery packs for automobiles. A123 is in the running to supply batteries for the Chevrolet Volt, the electric car General Motors Corp. is developing.

A deal to supply Chrysler would give a boost to A123's business ahead of a planned initial public stock offering. It registered for the offering in August.

A spokeswoman for Chrysler said the company "has nothing to announce at this time" about suppliers for its electric car. An A123 spokesman declined to comment, noting the company is in a quiet period because of its registration for an IPO.

Chrysler has been keeping its work on electric cars under tight wraps. But in recent weeks, as GM's Volt drew heavy media attention, Chrysler management became concerned that the company was being left out of the increasing buzz about electric vehicles, people familiar with the matter said.

GM has poured millions of dollars into its Volt project and has hyped the car in television commercials, although it is still uncertain whether the batteries for the car will be available on time. The Volt is set for launch in late 2010.

Tuesday, Chrysler will also demonstrate the electric car in a presentation that will be broadcast to dealers across the country. The company is hoping to energize dealers who have been hit hard by the downturn in auto sales this year.

Chrysler, which was acquired a year ago by private-equity group Cerberus Capital Management LP, has been searching for partners to help it keep pace with GM and others in the race to launch high-tech cars that cut fuel consumption and greenhouse-gas emissions.

The company had originally thought it might be able to have a working electric car by the spring, people familiar with the matter said. But with Chrysler burning cash and its sales falling, Cerberus has pushed the company to focus on cutting expenses, they said. The auto maker's sales have sagged this year as high gas prices spooked American consumers away from large vehicles like trucks and SUVs. Although Chief Executive Robert Nardelli has slashed costs and sold off assets, Chrysler is still on track to lose money this year.

Chrysler's push to develop electric vehicles began before Cerberus took an 80.1% stake in the company in August 2007, people familiar with the matter said.

$25B fed auto aid in sight

By week's end Congress expected to OK low-cost loans for struggling domestic industry, officials say.

David Shepardson / Detroit News Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- Congress is likely to approve by the end of the week funding for $25 billion in low-cost government loans to aid the struggling domestic auto industry after more than a year of debate, congressional and auto officials said Monday.

The money is included in a House bill drafted by Democrats to fund the ongoing operation of the federal government; a copy of the draft bill was obtained by The Detroit News on Monday. The bill could be introduced in the House as early as today and voted on by Wednesday. The Senate is expected to vote by Friday.

The 30-page draft bill would be used to fund the federal government, perhaps until March, because Congress and the White House haven't agreed on a fiscal 2009 budget. It must be approved or the government would be forced to shut down. Congressional aides said Monday they thought the auto industry loans would most likely be attached to that bill.

The Congressional Budget Office said last week that Congress had to set aside $7.5 billion to cover the risk of automakers defaulting on their obligations. The draft measure allocates the full amount plus $10 million to the U.S. Energy Department to administer the loans for the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Program. Detroit's Big Three CEOs held meetings last week with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other key members of both parties. Pelosi and both presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain have endorsed funding the loans. They each held a one-on-one meetings with Rep. Dave Camp, R-Midland, who has been making the case for the automakers with the White House. The White House's call for a $700 billion bailout for Wall Street boosted Detroit's Big Three automakers prospects for winning funding, in part because their loan request is a much smaller figure, and White House officials aren't looking to pick fights with Democrats, who need to pass the Wall Street bailout, aides said.

Automakers would save at least $100 million in borrowing costs per $1 billion borrowed, but it isn't clear how much they would receive. They could get as much as a 25-year-repayment period and the government could defer any repayment for up to five years.

Other aides said the funding bill could get rolled into the Wall Street bailout bill and no final decisions had been made.

Gimme Credit auto analyst Shelly Lombard said "the market expects lawmakers to provide at least $25 billion in loans to the industry before they leave for a recess."

"Blue collar workers are more sympathetic victims than 'rich' investment bankers. So it's easier to defend loans designed to save close to 100,000 jobs in the shrinking U.S. manufacturing industry," Lombard wrote.

Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, who generally aligns himself with conservative House Republicans, called the reaction to the plan among conservatives "mixed."

"If you've got auto plants in your state, you're going to support it," Walberg said Sunday at a fundraising barbecue for the Jackson County GOP. In conversations with Republicans reluctant to embrace the plan, Walberg said, he emphasizes that the need for the loans stems from government-imposed fuel economy standards.

"I think we really do have an obligation," he said.

All three Detroit automakers are burning through cash amid the worst auto market since the early 1990s.

Fitch Ratings on Monday said it was dropping General Motors Corp.'s credit rating deeper into sub-investment grade status -- in part because of a lack of access to capital.

GM chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner said previously that the automaker wasn't counting on money from the loans to be part of its liquidity plan, and it could be well into 2009 before automakers saw any money. The Energy Department must write regulations for the program and certify that automakers are "financially viable without the receipt of additional federal funding associated with the proposed project." The law also sets aside 10 percent of the money for small automakers and suppliers with 500 or fewer employees. GM and Ford Motor Co. lost a combined $24 billion in the second quarter of the year and third quarter earnings are due shortly before the election.