WASHINGTON - Humbled and fighting for survival, Detroit's once-mighty automakers appealed to Congress with a retooled case for a huge bailout Tuesday, pledging to slash workers, car lines and executive pay in return for a federal lifeline. GM said it wouldn't last till New Year's without an immediate $4 billion and could drag the entire industry down if it fails.
General Motors Corp., asking for as much as $18 billion to keep afloat and survive even worse economic storms, painted the direst portrait to date of what could happen if Congress doesn't quickly step in.
"There isn't a Plan B," said Chief Operating Officer Fritz Henderson. "Absent support, frankly, the company just can't fund its operations." Without help, the company warned, "the company will default in the near term, very likely precipitating a total collapse of the domestic industry and its extensive supply chain, with a ripple effect that will have severe, long-term consequences to the U.S. economy."
On the assembly line, autoworkers are bracing for the worst, reports CBS News correspondent Anthony Mason.
"You know you are seeing the company basically going through a meltdown. It's pretty frightening," one auto worker said.
And business keeps getting bleaker. GM's sales fell more than 40 percent for the second straight month and Chrysler was down 47 percent in November, reports Mason. Ford, Toyota and Honda all were off more than 30 percent.
"This is an incredibly weak market," Rebecca Linland of Global Insight told Mason. "They're getting no revenue at all. And all of the manufacturers are really suffering - not just confined to the Big Three."
CBS News correspondent Ben Tracy reports that nationwide, 750 dealerships have already closed this year and 150 more are expected to shut down in the next four weeks - putting nearly 40,000 employees out of work.
Democratic leaders have said they might call Congress back next week to pass an auto bailout - but only if the carmakers' blueprints show the Big Three have reasonable plans to stay viable with the help.
Making no commitments, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday, "We want to see a commitment to the future. We want to see a restructuring of their approach, that they have a new business model, a new business plan." She said, "it is my hope that we would" pass legislation to help the industry.
All three plans envision the government getting a stake in the auto companies that would allow taxpayers to share in future gains if they recover.