Automakers Keep the Environment in Mind to Prove Bailout Viability

Here's what the Big Three have to say about sustainability and their bailout.

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President Bush agreed today to bail out GM and Chrysler, but the companies only have the first quarter to prove that they are "viable." And if the plans the automakers presented to Congress are any indication, viable means green.

Here's what the companies have to say:

Chrysler: "We have 24 major launches in our plan from 2009 through 2012, with a key feature of this future product strategy being our capability as an electric vehicle company. Building on our status as the largest producer of electric-drive vehicles in the United States today with our GEM unit, we are focusing on electric as our primary clean-vehicle technology. Combined with our new products from our ENVI group, we expect that 500,000 Chrysler electric-drive vehicles will be on the road by 2013."

GM: "This will allow us to accelerate the completion of our aggressive restructuring plan for long-term, sustainable success. It will lead to a leaner, stronger General Motors, a GM that is ... fully committed to leading in energy-saving vehicles and technologies."

Ford: "Ford said it is more committed than ever to deliver more of the safe, affordable, high-quality, fuel-efficient vehicles that consumers want and value. The company’s plans include: Introducing industry-leading, fuel-saving EcoBoost engines on today’s vehicles for up to 20 percent better fuel economy and up to 15 percent fewer CO2 emissions versus larger-displacement engines ... Bringing to market by 2012 a family of hybrids, plug-in hybrids and battery electric vehicles. ... Retooling three North American truck plants to produce small, fuel efficient vehicles."

The news came a day after an announcement that GM was halting construction on a Chevy Volt plant, and that a Chinese automaker had beaten Americans to mass-produce a plug-in hybrid.

Keith Johnson of the Wall Street Journal wonders, though - how much can be done by March? "Retooling Detroit to make an environmentally-friendlier car won’t happen in a single quarter. During a recession, that kind of restructuring could become tougher to pull off at all, especially as oil and gasoline prices continue to fall, erasing memories of $4 gasoline."

Today, oil sank to less than $34 a barrel, for the first time in four and a half years.

So, what do you think - do the Big Three have a fighting chance?