Automakers headed for ‘orderly bankruptcy?’

President George W. Bush said Thursday he was determined to resolve the crisis surrounding ailing US automakers before he left the White House, with "orderly bankruptcy" an option being considered.

As Detroit-based auto manufacturers struggled to find survival options and a possible government rescue, General Motors rejected reports it was reopening merger talks with Chrysler.

General Motors, Chrysler and Ford have banded together to ask for a 14-billion dollar government rescue to help weather the economic crisis after Congress refused a bailout over a dispute over union wages.

Nearly a week after the White House said it will consider tapping a 700-billion-dollar financial rescue fund to prevent the automakers’ collapse, Bush said Thursday he was worried about leaving a mess behind for his successor, president-elect Barack Obama.

"I haven’t made up my mind yet," Bush told a conservative think-tank, the American Enterprise Institute. "The autos obviously are very fragile and I have laid out a couple of principles.

"I am worried about a disorderly bankruptcy and what it would do to the psychology and the markets, they’re beginning to thaw but there is still a lot of uncertainty," he said.

"I am also worried about, you know, putting good money after bad.

"And frankly there is one other consideration and that is I feel an obligation to my successor," he said, referring to Obama who takes over on January 20.

"I thought about what it would be like for me to become president during this period. I believe that good policy is not to dump him a major catastrophe" on his first day of office, Bush added.

Obama, who takes over on January 20, wants the administration and the Congress to give the auto industry temporary assistance while demanding mandatory long-term restructuring.

As Bush faces pressure to act before the Christmas and New Year holidays, White House officials said bankruptcy was one of the options being considered, adding that a decision on what to do was close.

Asked if an orderly bankruptcy was one of the options for the embattled industry which has asked for government bailout, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said "yes."

A managed bankruptcy as opposed to letting the auto manufacturers slide into an uncontrolled, unstructured collapse was in a "spectrum of options," she said, adding "we are very close" to a decision.

The Detroit Big Three have repeatedly warned that without a package of loans, millions of jobs could be lost, which they say would have devastating effects for the nation’s already stumbling economy.

Chrysler said Thursday it was closing its American units for a month from Friday after GM announced it was idling 30 percent of its North American production "in response to rapidly deteriorating market conditions."

Amid the difficulties, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that Chrysler was seeking to restart discussions on a merger with General Motors to show the Bush administration that it wanted to cooperate in restructuring the industry.

Citing people familiar with the discussions, the newspaper said Chrysler’s owner, Cerberus Capital Management LP, "is eager to make concessions in order to arrange a combination of Chrysler’s finance arm with that of GM."

But General Motors dismissed the report.

"There are no merger talks between GM and Chrysler," said Tony Cervone, a GM spokesman.

"We stated in November that we tabled any discussion and are focused on our liquidity situation, and that position has not changed."