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Obama Drops 'Car Czar' for Task Force to Oversee Detroit

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner speaks at the end of the G-7 meeting in Rome Saturday. He is one of the officials tapped to oversee the auto industry restructuring. (AP Photo)

President Obama is planning to assign a task force of senior officials to oversee the restructuring of the auto industry, as the government weighs whether to dole out billions more in loans to Chrysler and General Motors.

The administration will not appoint a single "car czar" to oversee the restructuring as had been discussed. According to a senior administration official, Obama is looking in-house to assemble his team that will see through the plans. An official announcement could come as early as Monday.

The task force will be led by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and National Economic Council Director Lawrence Summers. Other members will be drawn from relevant Cabinet agencies and offices, such as the transportation, labor, energy and commerce departments. 

Ron Bloom, a restructuring expert, will also be brought on to aid the administration's team as a senior adviser, according to the senior official. Bloom, a former consultant to the United Steelworkers of America, will be doing much of the financial analysis for the administration.

The administration already has teams in place at the Department of the Treasury and the National Economic Council working with General Motors and Chrysler in the run-up to their Tuesday deadline for submitting restructuring proposals. 

The plans are to be followed by weeks of intense negotiations ahead of a March 31 deadline for the final versions of the reports.

Obama and his aides face difficult choices on the fate of the U.S. auto industry, weighing the cost of pouring billions more into struggling companies against possible bankruptcies that could undermine plans to jump-start the economy.

GM and Chrysler are living off a combined $13.4 billion in government loans. If they don't receive concessions by March 31, they face the prospect of having the loans pulled, followed by bankruptcy proceedings.

Any bankruptcy would be particularly painful, with some economists predicting the country could lose 2 million to 3 million jobs this year and the unemployment rate, now 7.6 percent, could swell past 9 percent by the spring of 2010.

In television interviews Sunday, White House senior adviser David Axelrod didn't respond directly when asked if the U.S. economy could withstand a GM bankruptcy. Nor did he directly address a question about whether the Obama administration would let GM go into bankruptcy.

"I'm not going to prejudge anything. I think that there is going to have to be a restructuring of those companies. I'm not going to get into the mode of how that happens. We'll wait and see what they have to say on Tuesday," he told "FOX News Sunday."

Executives at the two automakers have said bankruptcy is not an option because consumers would not buy cars from a company that might go out of business.

"How that restructuring comes is something that has to be determined," Axelrod said. "But it's going to be something that's going to require sacrifice not just from the auto workers but also from creditors, from shareholders and the executives who run the company. And everyone's going to have to get together here to build companies that can compete in the future."

GM spokesman Greg Martin said the company welcomed the task force.

"We expect to meet soon with this team to share GM's detailed restructuring plan to restore our company to viability and to meet the requirements of its loan agreements," he said.

The terms of the federal loans set "targets" for concessions, largely from debt-holders and the United Auto Workers union, but concession talks have made little progress with just a couple days left before the initial deadline.

Negotiations between GM and the UAW broke off Friday night but resumed Sunday, still focusing on exchanging the company's cash payments into a union-run retiree health care trust for GM stock, according to a person briefed on the talks who didn't want to be identified because the bargaining is private.

GM and UAW officials declined comment.

GM and Chrysler don't need to have everything nailed down for Tuesday's progress reports, but the companies are expected to detail concessions along with plant closures, the potential elimination of brands and thousands of job cuts.

Axelrod wouldn't say whether the administration would offer the auto industry more bailout money. GM already has borrowed $9.4 billion to stay in business, and it would receive an addition $4 billion if the Treasury Department approves its viability plan. Chrysler wants $3 billion more on top of the $4 billion it has already borrowed.

"We need to see what it is that they come up with this week," Axelrod said. 

FOX News' Major Garrett and The Associated Press contributed to this report.