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The US automobile industry had one of the worst weeks in its history. After two days of appealing to the Congress for a $25 billion bailout loan, US automobile executives were told to come back with a workable plan that would restructure the industry and convince lawmakers that any loan would do more than keep the industry on life support for a few more months.

By week’s end, GM’s board was reported to be weighing bankruptcy options. This in turn has started a debate over whether a corporation as large and complex as GM can actually operate under bankruptcy laws or whether it simply will have to shut down as quickly as possible, throwing millions out of work at GM-parts suppliers, dealers and other automobile companies that would be caught up in the turmoil. Some doubt that GM, despite heroic efforts to shut down plants and trim costs, has enough cash to survive more than a month or two.