St. Louis Public Radio News
5:37 am
Thu December 4, 2008

Fenton mayor adds voice to call for auto loans - with strings

St. Louis, MO – St. Louis officials were among the cacophony of voices Thursday asking the federal government to provide the American auto industry with $34 billion in loans.

Fenton mayor Dennis Hancock says it's odd for him as a conservative to be supporting government intervention, which is why he wants some strings attached. Chrysler idled the Fenton South minivan plant in October, but a Canadian facility that makes the same vehicles is running three shifts. That frustrates Hancock, who wants lawmakers to require the Detroit Three to change that as a condition of the loan.

"If the US government is going to be using taxpayers dollars to help these companies, then the taxpayers need to be getting some help in return from the automakers," he said.

Hancock made his request to Senator Kit Bond, a lead negotiator on a loan compromise, when the Republican visited Fenton in late November. A spokeswoman for Bond says the Senator supports the idea.

Hancock believes any loan will be enough for the lawmakers to survive the credit crunch, which has made it tough to sell vehicles. "Once the financial industry gets sorted out, and people are able to get loans for major purchases, it would be a shame not to have automakers who had products available to sell," he said

But Washington University economist Radha Gopalan says even though the credit markets will un-stick before the automakers need another loan, dropping incomes will keep people from buying cars whether or not the financial markets are working again