The big U.S. automakers are desperate to stay in business. While Toyota and Honda have seen similar sharp losses in the form of 30 to 40 percent drops in vehicle sales, the U.S. automakers -- GM, Ford, and Chrysler -- have been hit the hardest. Their executives realize the need to restructure and have announced large changes, including cutting their own salaries and compensation to $1/year. GM and Ford are also selling their private jets, a source of much criticism.
All three automakers are looking for money from the government to stay in business. In fact, GM says that it will run out of money before the end of the year, so the bailout money is needed right now.
One major obstacle to a bailout plan passing Congress is public antipathy to an automaker bailout. A recent CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey indicates 61 percent opposed the bailout, while only 36 percent support it. CNN Polling Director Keating Holland says one key reason is because people don't believe an automotive bailout would help them. According to Holland, "Only 15 percent say that they would be immediately affected if the auto companies went bankrupt. Seven in 10 say that a bailout would be unfair to American taxpayers."
The public opinion marks a shift since November, when over half of those polled supported an auto bailout plan. In total 70 percent of Republicans oppose the bailout, with 62 percent of independents and 55 percent of Democrats also opposed. Many of those surveyed cite the automotive CEOs use of private jets as a major reason they changed their mind.
Aides to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid are already saying that he doesn't think he has the votes needed to pass a bailout. However, GM and the other two automakers are going their best to convince Congress to save the industry from collapse.