convert Monaco, Guaranty, Country Coach to make buses
As gasoline prices continue to oscillate upward, the only viable future for Lane County's Recreational Vehicle manufacturers is to retool and redesign their factories to make buses. Vehicles that get only a few miles per gallon need to carry more than a retired husband and wife (with or without the kids or grandkids). Lane County plans to send millions in public funds to out of state bus manufacturers for the LTD buses and the newer "Emerald Express" Bus Rapid Transit system. Lane County could keep some of these funds local, help failing factories to find new opportunities, and prepare for an energy constrained future by helping the RV industry find new life as bus manufacturers.
Dodd: Automakers should consider making buses
By PETER URBAN
Updated: 12/10/2008 12:04:35 AM EST
WASHINGTON -- Detroit automakers will need to consider manufacturing buses and rail cars if they expect to get a lifeline from Congress.
Among the caveats included in a 31-page bill to provide General Motors and Chrysler access to $15 billion to stay afloat through March is a requirement that they study the feasibility of making public transit vehicles.
Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd included the provision after broaching the idea to business leaders of General Motors, Chrysler and Ford during a hearing last week where they presented their proposal for a $34 billion bailout.
The Connecticut Democrat noted during the hearing people aren't buying cars right now, but many municipalities and states are eager to boost mass transit.
"You all made buses at one point, didn't you?" Dodd asked.
"Yes, we made buses. We made ... we were in the rail business, as well," said General Motors Chief Executive Officer Richard Wagoner.
"Any thoughts about getting back into that line of work?" Dodd interrupted.
"We continue to build a fairly large van, of which the applications are largely commercial. I'm making note of your comment about the increase in demand likely out of the trust fund, because we have ... plenty of capacity and that van is a very competitive one. It can be adapted to those kinds of uses," Wagoner said.
The Senate Banking Committee oversees mass transit policy.
An early draft of the automotive bailout bill included a section requiring that any automobile manufacturer receiving financial assistance would be required to conduct an analysis of using any excess production capacity to make vehicles for public transit agencies.
The bill suggests that as carmakers slow production of sport utility vehicles they turn to making bus and rail cars that are in demand by transit agencies. The U.S. Comptroller General would conduct an analysis and then provide Congress and a presidentially named "car czar" with a report.
Democrats and White House officials traded legislative proposals behind the scenes, closing in on agreement.
The core of the bill -- and its aim -- was not in dispute. It would provide emergency loans to two of Detroit's Big Three automakers -- Ford Motor Co. has said it doesn't need an immediate cash transfusion -- and create the car czar position.
The federal overseer would supervise a broad restructuring and would be empowered to yank the money if the carmakers weren't doing enough to ensure their own survival.
The White House and congressional Republicans were demanding tougher consequences for carmakers that couldn't prove to the government they were viable, including a requirement, rather than an option, for them to be cut off from federal aid.
Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he was concerned that Democrats were proposing a package that "fails to require the kind of serious reform that will ensure long-term viability for struggling automobile companies." With their approach, "We open the door to unlimited federal subsidies in the future," McConnell said.
The White House has said it shares those concerns.
"There will not be long-term financing if they can't prove long-term viability," White House Press Secretary Dana Perino said.
The current Congress is ready to depart for the year after this week, with the auto bailout legislation among the only things delaying lawmakers' abbreviated winter break.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.