Auto Industry Bailout A $9.3 Billion Loss


U.S. Capitol at dusk

U.S. Capitol at dusk

The government bailout that pulled General Motors Company [NYSE:GM] and Chrysler (now Fiat Chrysler Automobiles [NYSE:FCAU]) away from bankruptcy was one of the most politically-controversial events in the recent history of the U.S. auto industry, and now the final tally is in. Taxpayers lost $9.26 billion to bail out the two automakers.

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The U.S. Treasury released a report last week saying the government recovered $70.42 billion of the $79.68 billion it gave to GM, Chrysler, and related financial firms and suppliers under the Auto Industry Financing Program—part of the larger Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).

On December 18, the Treasury sold its remaining stock in Ally Financial, formerly GMAC, the finance arm of GM. Chrysler repaid its loans in June 2011 after merging with Fiat, and the government sold its last GM shares in December 2013.

The loss was less than originally expected and, of course, it prevented GM and Chrysler from going out of business—which supporters argued would have only made the economic situation worse.

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When the government began dispensing loans in 2009, critics argued that the two companies should be allowed to fail and either be liquidated or reorganized privately.

Yet that could have been disastrous, according to analysis conducted by the Center for Automotive Research last year. It claimed the U.S. would have had 2.6 million fewer jobs in 2009 and 1.5 million fewer jobs in 2010 if the automakers had gone away. The study also claimed the government "saved or avoided the loss of" $105 billion in lost taxes and social service expenses—such as food stamps, unemployment benefits, and healthcare costs.

While it may seem a bit trite in comparison, it's also worth considering the potential loss of choice to consumers in the new car market, and that without the bailout, cars like the Chevrolet Corvette Stingray and Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat may never have existed.

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