Allowing GM and Chrysler to go under would have caused a collapse of the US component supply industry which, in turn, would have swept away Ford and other foreign-owned car US factories.
Rattner estimated that "two or three million jobs would have gone in an instant". Something of the same magnitude happened in the UK 35 years ago.
British Leyland Motor Corporation was created from two companies, a move brokered by the Labour government in 1968, however a combination of the usual troubles, allied to the fuel crisis and the three-day week, resulted in BLMC running out of money in late 1974.
On 24 April 1975, then-Prime Minister Harold Wilson stood up in parliament to reveal the findings of Lord Ryder’s report into the BLMC debacle.
Wilson revealed plans for a massive injection of cash – some £1.4bn, or £8.8bn in today’s money - to allow BL to be re-equipped and re-armed with new models from Minis to giant earthmovers.
"The government has decided that Britain must remain in the world league so far as a British-owned automobile industry is concerned", Wilson said.
But most chilling was Wilson’s warning about the consequences of BL being allowed to collapse. "The company employs more than 170,000 people directly in this country, and the livelihood of several hundred thousand more is dependent upon it. I must tell the House that in this decision a million jobs are at stake." Back in 1975, a million jobs was probably around one UK job in every 20.
Of course the great BL bailout cost even more then expected (even Mrs Thatcher bunged BL a billion in 1981, in the middle of serious recession) and ultimately failed.
But it’s interesting to note that Alistair Darling, the previous chancellor, estimates that, when the UK government sells its bank shares, the ultimate cash cost of the bank rescue will be around £6bn.
It looks like being both a cheaper and a rather more successful turn-around than the infamous, but just as economically serious, BL bailout.
You can read the Hansard record on the BL collapse and the revealing of the Ryder report here.