Washington - A White House task force rejected multi-billion dollar pleas from US automakers General Motors and Chrysler for more government aid, pushing them closer to bankruptcies that could deepen the US recession.
Fears of a major auto industry failure are likely to add more pressure on leaders of the world's biggest economies as they gather for a crucial meeting this week to discuss ways to recover from the worst financial crisis in generations.
The Financial Times newspaper, quoting a draft communique, said on Monday that the G20 hopes to restore global growth by the end of 2010, but much depends on when the United States pulls out of its economic tailspin.
President Barack Obama said on Sunday that GM and its smaller rival Chrysler had not done enough to save themselves since receiving a $17.4 billion bailout in December.
Recession in the world's largest economy has slammed the brakes on US car sales, pushing top US automaker GM and many of its suppliers and dealers to the brink of failure.
The White House's surprisingly robust warning to GM and Chrysler to slash debt came after Rick Wagoner, GM's chief executive since 2000, was forced to resign.
Instead of granting GM's request for up to $30 billion in new loans, the Obama administration only pledged to fund GM's operations for the next 60 days while the top US automaker develops a more sweeping restructuring plan under new leadership.
Chrysler had wanted another $5 billion in loans to ride out the weakest market for new cars in almost 30 years.
"We have unfortunately concluded that neither plan submitted by either company represents viability and therefore does not warrant the substantial additional investments that they requested," said a senior administration official, who asked not to be identified.
GM has lost about $82 billion since 2005 and as well as about 95% of its value since Wagoner took over as CEO.
Some analysts see bankruptcy as the only way to rebuild the automakers. The senior administration official said the White House had not ruled out a structured, quick bankruptcy process for either GM or Chrysler which he likened to a "a quick rinse" possibly lasting as little as 30 days.
GM and Chrysler employ almost 160 000 US workers and their parts suppliers many more. Allowing the automakers to fail would cause widespread hardship, likely deepening the US downturn and causing more turmoil in troubled global credit markets.
"The fact that there's still a chance of GM going bankrupt is shocking," said Takashi Ushio, head of the investment strategy division at Marusan Securities in Japan.