Washington - The federal government may offer more help to struggling US automakers but only if they show that they can be commercially viable, US President Barack Obama said on Wednesday.
General Motors and Chrysler are under tight deadlines to show progress on meeting cost savings and other targets required under a $17.4 billion bailout extended by Bush administration in December.
Whether or not the automakers get additional help rests on the turnaround plans they are to submit to the government on February 17, Obama said in a White House news conference with 16 regional US newspapers.
"My goal, consistently has been to offer serious help once a plan is in place that ensures long-term viability and that we're not just kicking the can down the road," Obama said. "What the nature of what that help ends up looking like, I think is going to depend on the plan."
Obama cautioned that the automakers needed to submit a realistic plan.
"If a plan is presented to us premised on 20 million sales when we just know that's not going to happen, then we're going to have to ask them to go back to the drawing board," he said.
Asked whether bankruptcy was an option for the automakers, Obama reiterated his belief that a disorganised filing could be disastrous to the economy at large. But he did not rule it out.
"My main message communicated through the Detroit papers would be 'Get me a plan that works,'" Obama said.
The Treasury Department has retained law firms with bankruptcy experience and an investment bank to advise officials on GM's taxpayer-backed restructuring and was expected to name a trustee or "czar" to oversee the process.
The Treasury Department has said it would make no decisions on industry restructuring until after turnaround plans were submitted.