February 12, 2009 at 2:52 pm

Pelosi has eye on automakers

Democrat met with experts for industry update as GM, Chrysler prepare viability plans.

Pelosi )

WASHINGTON -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is keeping close tabs on the efforts of General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC to file restructuring plans by Tuesday.

"The February 17th proposal from autos is critical and they must take it seriously," said her spokesman Drew Hammill.

Last Wednesday, Pelosi, D-Calif., held a meeting with a number of top auto industry analysts to get an assessment of the state of the struggling auto industry. Auto sales fell 37 percent in January amid the struggling economy and are projected to remain sharply lower throughout 2009.

Those attending the meeting included Chris Buchbinder of Capital Research Global Investors; Ellen O. Carr, Capital Guardian Trust Company and Capital Research Company; Brian Johnson of Barclays Capital; Steve Girksy, Centerbridge Industrial Partners; and Vince Wolfington, Global Alliance Advisors. The meeting also included a couple of well-known environmental advocates, including Michelle Robinson and Eli Hopson of the Union of Concerned Scientists. Two participants in the meeting said Pelosi asked lots of questions about the future of the auto industry.

It also included top House Democrats and several members of Michigan's congressional delegation.

GM CEO Rick Wagoner made the rounds on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, meeting with Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, to talk about the company's restructuring plan.

Pelosi pushed in September to win approval of $25 billion in low-cost government loans to help automakers and suppliers retool plants to build more fuel-efficient vehicles. She reluctantly agreed to back a compromise to allow automakers to tap the funds for emergency loans in December, but that was later scuttled in the Senate. President Bush provided $17.4 billion in emergency loans to GM and Chrysler.

Both companies must file restructuring plans by Tuesday with the Treasury Department and show significant progress by March 31.

You can reach David Shepardson at (202) 662-8735 or dshepardson@detnews.com">dshepardson@detnews.com.