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Automaker GM Files For Bankruptcy

ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

President Obama said today that GM has a credible plan that is full of promise - and that GM can't achieve that promise alone. General Motors bankruptcy filing this morning as an unprecedented moment - the humbling of one of America's most iconic companies.

SIEGEL: NPR's Don Gonyea reports from the White House.

DON GONYEA: It is a sobering thought: General Motors in bankruptcy. But the president today spoke of something that has been anything but guaranteed for GM: a future.

BARACK OBAMA: Working with my auto taskforce, GM and its stakeholders have produced a viable, achievable plan that will give this iconic American company a chance to rise again.

GONYEA: This was the third time the president has stood before cameras to discuss the troubled U.S. car business. Two months ago, it was to say GM and Chrysler had not done enough to warrant further government help. On that day, he gave each more time. Then a month ago, the president said Chrysler would survive, but only after going through bankruptcy. Today was GM's turn. In fact, today's announcement about GM actually included good news from Chrysler - that it is about to emerge from bankruptcy - with a new partner, the Italian automaker Fiat.

OBAMA: Many experts said that a quick, surgical bankruptcy was impossible. They were wrong. Others predicted that Chrysler's decision to enter bankruptcy would lead to an immediate collapse in consumer confidence that would send car sales over a cliff - they were wrong, as well.

GONYEA: The president says GM can follow the same path. But Chrysler and GM are very different. GM is much larger. It will not enter into a forced marriage with another company. Instead, it is slashing brands: Pontiac, Saturn, Hummer and Saab. GM will now sell cars under just four divisions: Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac and GMC. Here's company chairman Fritz Henderson.

FRITZ HENDERSON: We'll have fewer nameplates, which allows us to basically focus on getting every one of those nameplates right. In this case, I think fewer, more focused and better is a much better approach.

GONYEA: GM also announced that it is closing or temporarily idling another dozen plants. Three of those factories are in the suburban Detroit district of Democratic Congressman Gary Peters.

GARY PETERS: It is a very tough day for all of us in Michigan.

GONYEA: Peters does say the news that Chrysler seems to be surviving bankruptcy offers some hope. Still...

PETERS: Bottom line, we still are losing three plants here in my county. People have to realize that this is not just about General Motors or Chrysler - just that people aren't buying cars, period. And until automobiles start returning to normal levels, our economy here is going to continue to be decimated.

GONYEA: The additional $30 billion the president has announced for GM is not a loan. It actually gives the U.S. the majority stake in the automaker by far - bringing the total U.S. aide to the company to more than 50 billion.

OBAMA: Now, let me talk about this. I recognize that this may give some Americans pause.

GONYEA: But the president stressed that the goal is not to run GM, that it will be run by a private board of directors and management team that they - and not the government - will make the decisions about how to turn the company around. The president did say that thanks to the U.S. investment, a restructured GM will now have breathing room - allowing it to, again, be an engine of the U.S. economy.

OBAMA: And when that happens, we can truly say that what is good for General Motors and all who work there is good for the United States of America.

GONYEA: Don Gonyea, NPR News, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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National & International Business NewsMorning EditionAll Things Considered
You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at NPR.org. To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.