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PPG Chair Calls for Action in Auto Bailout

PPG Industries chairperson and chief executive officer Charles Bunch penned a letter late yesterday to all of the U.S. senators urging them to take action in assisting the Big Three auto manufacturers. In the letter, sent officially from the National Association of Manufacturers, of which Bunch is chairperson, he writes, "Like many other domestic manufacturers in the auto industry supply chain, PPG Industries would face severe economic consequences if this matter is not addressed immediately."

He notes that in 2008 the auto industry provided PPG more than $500 million in sales and more than 1,260 manufacturing and research and development jobs to PPG employees.

"Allowing the auto industry to collapse would put these and the more than 600,000 other jobs in the auto parts supply chain in jeopardy," Bunch writes.

Bunch calls the auto industry relief a "critical component in [the] overall effort to restore confidence to consumers and investors, and stabilize the economy."

"A stable auto industry is critical to our nation's economic recovery," he continues.

The vote to assist the Big Three auto manufacturers with a $14 million bailout failed yesterday. However, White House press secretary Dana Perino issued a statement today noting that the legislation under consideration "provided an opportunity to use funds already appropriated for automakers, and presented the best chance to avoid a disorderly bankruptcy while ensuring taxpayer funds go only to firms whose stakeholders were prepared to make the difficult decisions to become viable, competitive firms in the future."

"However, given the current weakened state of the U.S. economy, we will consider other options if necessary," she says, "Including the use of the [Troubled Asset Relief Program], to prevent a collapse of troubled automakers. A precipitous collapse of this industry would have a severe impact on our economy, and it would be irresponsible to further weaken and destabilize our economy at this time."

The Troubled Asset Relief Program was created by the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008.

Many industry representatives have concerns about what impact the automotive industry could have on this sector.

"Solutia is in favor of federal relief for the U.S. automakers," says Paul J. Berra, vice president of government affairs and communications for Solutia Inc., which indirectly relies on U.S.-based OEMs for a small percent of its total revenue. "The U.S. OEMs employ hundreds of thousands of people, and permeate the broader U.S. economy through their supplier and dealer networks. During more normal economic conditions, the U.S. bankruptcy process provides the means for successful restructuring without the use of national policy—as evidenced by Solutia's own recent emergence from Chapter 11 reorganization. Unfortunately, during today's uncertain economic times, the bankruptcy of large companies such as the U.S. OEMs would further accentuate our country's economic decline. Therefore, we believe the use of national policy is warranted."

One auto glass shop owner, Dave Zoldowski, president of Auto One in Brighton, Mich., had previously authored an open letter to America urging assistance for the auto manufacturers. (CLICK HERE for related story.) Following yesterday's decision, he still had hope for the manufacturers—though he cited partisan politics as the reason for the failure of the vote.

"They all voted for the $700 billion bail out of Wall Street, which protected a few hundred multi-millionaires' investments stuffing hands in the Senators' back pockets," Zoldowski says. "This is no more than partisan politics. We are talking about [more than] a million of jobs. I pray to God that the President will intervene."

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