DETROIT – Members of the Obama administration's autos task force will test drive the Chevrolet Volt rechargeable electric car and tour a Chrysler LLC pickup truck factory when they visit the Detroit area on Monday, an administration official said Sunday.
Task force members, led by Wall Street financier Steven Rattner and Steelworkers union official Ron Bloom, also will meet with United Auto Workers President Ron Gettelfinger and other top union officials, and they will sit down with senior General Motors Corp. and Chrysler executives, said the official, who asked not to be identified because the schedule has not been made public.
GM and Chrysler are living on $17.4 billion in government loans approved by the Bush administration last year, and they have asked for a total of $39 billion. Obama appointed the task force to review the automakers' viability plans and decide if they should get additional aid.
Task force members apparently will begin their day with a tour of GM's sprawling tech center in suburban Warren, Mich., followed by a tour of Chrysler's nearby Warren Truck plant, where the new Dodge Ram pickup is put together. The tech center houses GM's U.S. design and engineering operations, as well as a special facility for the Volt.
It was unclear where members will meet with the executives or the union officials, although it's likely to take place on the GM tech center grounds north of downtown Detroit.
The Volt, a battery powered plug-in electric vehicle, is being tested at the tech center, where GM has a studio dedicated to developing what the company is betting will be the car of the future.
GM is working on advanced lithium-ion battery packs for the Volt, which the company has promised will be able to go 40 miles on a single charge from a home outlet. After that, a 1.4-liter internal-combustion engine will kick in to generate electricity to extend the car's range.
Struggling GM has promised to have the car in showrooms late next year.
For Chrysler, the revamped Ram is an important product that executives hope will lead the company to profitability once the U.S. auto market recovers from the worst sales slump in 27 years. Chrysler points to the Ram as a sign of its improved quality and upgraded interiors that will spread to the rest of its model lineup.
The White House said Friday it was trying to determine "how to be the best partner" for the struggling auto industry.
Cabinet-level members of the panel, led by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and White House economic adviser Larry Summers, met at the White House for 90 minutes to review restructuring plans from GM and Chrysler as well as discuss the plight of auto parts suppliers.
Many suppliers are nearly out of cash and could go into bankruptcy protection soon without government aid.
The government can recall its loans to GM and Chrysler they fail to sign deals for debt restructuring and other concessions from stakeholders including the UAW by March 31. GM and Chrysler are seeking $21.6 billion in additional financing to execute turnaround plans submitted last month.
Last week GM said in its annual report that auditors raised serious doubt about the Detroit automaker's ability to continue operating. GM has received $13.4 billion in federal loans and is seeking an additional $16.6 billion. Chrysler has received $4 billion in federal loans and is asking for $5 billion more.
Some Republican senators in Washington are pushing for GM to enter Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Richard Shelby of Alabama said Sunday that they want the automaker to seek bankruptcy protection, which would allow for reorganization.
GM has said the restructuring can be accomplished without bankruptcy and said Chapter 11 would scare off customers who would be fearful that the company wouldn't be around to honor warranties or make replacement parts.