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WASHINGTON -- Automakers plan to urge Congress to support funding up to $50 billion in low-interest loans over three years to help them modernize their assembly plants and develop next-generation fuel-efficient vehicles.
Industry officials said the loans, twice the amount authorized in last year's energy bill, will be a top priority when Congress returns next month because of the declining fortunes of Detroit's automakers and tightening credit markets.
Auto industry officials have argued that the loan program would not represent a bailout but would be similar to aid lawmakers have given to Wall Street investment banks and struggling mortgage firms. They also note that auto companies face tens of billions of dollars in costs from new fuel economy regulations.
"We don't see it as a bailout. We see it as government assistance to help retooling tied to the production of these advanced technology vehicles," Reuther said.