May 6, 2020 12:45 PM, EDT

Auto-State Lawmakers Mobilize Push to Help Revive Car Industry

A group of House lawmakers is mounting a push to aid the automaking sector.The Ford Motor Co. Michigan Assembly plant stands idle in Wayne, Mich., on March 23.

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A bipartisan group of House lawmakers from states with a large auto industry presence is mounting a push to aid the sector that has idled factories and seen car sales plummet due to the coronavirus.

Nine lawmakers from both parties so far have signed onto a draft letter urging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to consider fresh proposals to support auto industry employment in future coronavirus legislation.

The effort, led by Michigan Representatives Debbie Dingell, a Democrat, and Fred Upton, a Republican, and other lawmakers from Ohio, Tennessee, Texas and Alabama, doesn’t propose specific forms of aid for carmakers, parts suppliers or dealers. However, the lawmakers wrote, “it will be necessary to support demand for some time to ensure a meaningful recovery,” according to the draft, which was provided by Upton’s office and reported earlier by the Washington Post.

The lawmakers are trying to recruit others to sign on to the effort.

“Given the enormity of the industry’s economic footprint throughout our nation and its significant legacy, we seek your assurance that an appropriate response will be included so that American workers in the automotive industry can help drive a robust recovery,” the lawmakers wrote.

Auto sales fell 47% in April after a 38% decline in March as stay-home orders in most parts of the U.S. to combat the coronavirus have idled much of the U.S. economy. Auto assembly and parts factories have been idled since mid-March.

Discussions about auto industry aid have been underway since at least April, including a possible program to stimulate new car sales to fuel an industry recovery.

“When you’ve got high-value, durable goods that rely on a pipeline of inventory already built, I also believe you do need a short-term stimulus to get that kick-started,” Fiat Chrysler CEO Mike Manley said on an earnings call May 5. “The so-called cash-for-clunkers scheme actually did have a strong impact here in the United States in terms of kick-starting” the industry in 2009.

In an April interview, Dingell said a new-car purchase incentive program was one potential way to help the industry that had been discussed, but that a consensus hadn’t yet been reached on whether to pursue it.

“It’s out there as an idea along with many other ideas,” Dingell said then. “We’re working with the entire ecosystem of automakers, workers, their unions, suppliers, dealers and consumers.”

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