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GM, Chrysler Willing To Merge To Get Federal Money

At the Senate Banking committee hearing with the heads of Detroit's Big Three automakers currently underway, Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah) just asked a very provocative -- and completely unexpected -- question that garnered some unusually candid responses.

Bennett asked GM chief executive Rick Wagoner and Chrysler chief executive Bob Nardelli if they would accept the billions in government loans they seek if those loans came with the requirement that the two auto giants merge into one company.

"I would be very willing to look at that," GM's Wagoner said.

Nardelli was more emphatic: Though "the first job that would go would be mine, if [a merger with GM] meant that we would get money to save Chrysler and save the jobs of people who have worked there for 80-some years, I would do it."

(Presumably, Chrysler has no employees senior enough to have 80 years of service with the company, but we get Nardelli's point.)

Wow. Didn't see that one coming.

GM and Chrysler deeply explored a merger in October but, as economic conditions worsened, the talks were shelved. But apparently not trashed, per the response to Bennett's question from GM and Chrysler.

To be completely fair, and maybe cynical, Bennett may have tossed GM and Chrysler a softball: If the two are required to merge to get federal money, it's a two-fer. Because the two automakers wanted to merge anyway -- this way, they'd get paid by the government to do so.

For the record, United Auto Workers president Ron Gettelfinger was opposed to the merger, noting that Chrysler's 1998 merger with Daimler went poorly for the UAW.

-- Frank Ahrens

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By Frank Ahrens  |  December 4, 2008; 3:14 PM ET
Categories:  The Ticker  | Tags: Bob Nardelli, Chrysler, Ford, GM, General Motors, Rick Wagoner  
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