Caravan of Auto Dealers, Suppliers, Workers Head to Washington

Groups feel there was a lot of misinformation at hearings last week

Driving a caravan of fuel-efficient, American-brand vehicles to Washington, a group of auto dealers, suppliers and union workers are heading to Washington to press lawmakers to rescue the Big Three carmakers.

The aim is to build grassroots support for a federal aid package in the wake of criticism that executives from General Motors, Ford, Chrysler and the United Auto Workers did not make a convincing case at congressional hearings last week.

"There was so much misinformation in the hearings last week. I'd love to see something come to fruition where people show what this industry means to the country," said Carl Galeana, president of Galeana Automotive Group, which has domestic and import dealerships in Michigan, South Carolina and Florida."I'll do whatever I can to save this industry."

The idea hatched by supplier Dura Automotive on the weekend soon gained support from the Big Three and the UAW. But while their executives are expected to eschew their much maligned corporate jets, it was unlikely they would drive to Washington with the caravan. While the caravan is a "great idea ... it's just not something we are in a position to sponsor or manage," said GM spokesman Tom Wilkinson. "As for our mode of transport, it can be safely assumed it will not be by company plane," Wilkinson said.

A Chrysler spokesman said the automaker was reviewing the plan and had not yet taken a position while Ford spokesman Mike Moran said "We absolutely support their effort. But we are not involved in putting it together."

The plan is to hold a rally in Detroit and then set off on a road trip to Washington with stops along the way for rallies and news conferences.

"We want to help dispel the myths" about the competitiveness of the U.S. automotive industry, said Sean McGuire, Dura's vice president of marketing."It's important to show that these are truly high-tech companies that produce a variety of alternate-fuel and high fuel-efficiency vehicles."

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008

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