Plans for a President Bush-directed bailout of GM and Chrysler are morphing into something more significant, according to reports from Wall Street and Washington.
Rather than tide the two companies over until President Obama’s government arrives and has to run through the whole process again, Bush is said to be considering a $40bn fund rather than a $15bn prop.
Still, there’s one thing about the rescue package that is already set in stone. Hardly a dollar will find its way out of the US.
GM’s brands not only need access to credit for day-to-day operations, but they have also been starved of cash for new product development.
Government, unions and management at Opel in Germany are working up plans to allow Opel to stand on its own two feet as far as possible.
Berlin is on standby with loan guarantees and one report suggested that unions could ask Opel to offer the workers a stake in the company, in exchange for big cuts in labour costs.
Things are more dire for Saab. It is about to launch the Saab 9-4X SUV (which is built in Mexico) but the long-awaited Saab 9-5 replacement is on hold because GM has withheld cash for the final development work.
And just to complicate things, the Saab 9-5 will be built at an Opel factory in Germany.
Saab was also due to start serious work on the new downsized Saab 9-3 replacement, which is scheduled to be built in Sweden.
The Swedish Government has put a healthy $3.5bn on the table to support Saab (and Volvo), which has to be used as both a way of borrowing money and on eco-friendly product development.
In the UK, Vauxhall needs credit to keep sales following, but at least does not have to get involved in full-scale product development and the factory is virtually ready for the new Astra.
So here’s the conundrum. All these GM brands are interlinked. But the state assistance on offer – from Washington to Gothenburg - is tied to national borders.
Could Saab use the money to finish the 9-5 off, even though it will be built by Opel and has a vital role in bringing the Insignia factory up to profitable capacity?
Can Opel realistically offer shares to workers without GM’s agreement?
Can Opel use German tax payer’s money to finish the development of the Astra (which will also be sold in the US) and Meriva (which is built in Spain)? Perhaps Spain should offer assistance to the Meriva project?
Propping up GM over the next 18 months will be difficult enough. But trying to untangle its subsidiaries and help them stand on their own feet looks like near-impossible task.