Local Car Dealers Feeling Pinch

Wednesday, December 3rd 2008, 5:35 pm
By: News On 6

By Dan Bewley, News On 6

TULSA, OK -- The Big Three automakers want our tax dollars. They've asked the government for $34 billion in loans.

The heads of General Motors, Chrysler and Ford go before congress on Thursday to plead their case.

There are more than 640 new and used car dealerships in the Tulsa area. Many are feeling the pinch of the sliding economy, so all eyes will be to Washington as the Big Three plead for a government bailout.

More than 4.5 million jobs are tied directly to Chrysler, Ford and General Motors, the Big Three. But the credit crunch is taking its toll; sales over the past year are down more than five percent.

"We sell normally 40 new a month, we're now selling 25," said Don Thornton G.M Tom Bloomfield.

Bloomfield has a front row seat as the battle for a bailout continues in Washington. The Big Three are looking for $34 billion in federal help.

"This is main street, this is jobs. This is preserving our way of life, our manufacturing base in America," said Chrysler President Jim Press.

Ford wants a $9 billion line of credit that it says it doesn't plan to use unless one of the other goes under.  Chrysler says it needs $7 billion by the end of the year just to keep running.

As for General Motors, the company's president says bankruptcy would erode consumer confidence and it's not an option. So General Motors is asking congress for $4 billion now as part of a $12 billion loan.

"I hope they give them the money, I guess that's the real answer. I think that's the right thing to for the economy. I think the other side of that would be bad," said Bloomfield.

Bad, as in going belly-up. All three company leaders have said they need the loans to stay in business. But Bloomfield says Tulsa wouldn't see as big of an affect as the rest of the country.

"We don't have any manufacturing plants here. We don't have a central office for any of the domestic manufacturers. But it would definitely affect people's confidence in the product, confidence in the manufacturer," said Bloomfield.

On Thursday, the Big Three has one more chance to plead their case, Bloomfield hopes Washington is listening.

Wednesday, the head of the United Auto Workers union said it's willing to make changes to help the automakers.

The union said it would be willing to return to the bargaining table to change some contract terms. It will also delay billions of dollars in payments to a health care trust fund and the union will make changes to the program that continues to pay laid-off workers most of their salaries.

Bloomfield emphasized the money the Big Three are asking for is just a loan, he says without it are economy could go into a depression.