General Motors ( GM) has asked the Treasury Department for financial aid to help complete a merger with Chrysler, according to published reports.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson would prefer any funding come from the $25 billion in low-interest loans approved last month for the auto industry, not the $700 billion banking-system rescue package, Bloomberg reports, citing people with knowledge of the matter,

GM executives have asked the Treasury to consider taking a stake in the automaker, although the government is cool to that suggestion, Bloomberg reports.

The Wall Street Journal reports without a merger and possibly an assist from the federal government, two of Detroit's Big Three auto makers could run out of cash within a year. Ford ( F) is the other automaker that makes up the Big Three.

The auto makers and Michigan political delegations have proposed at least three plans in recent weeks to unlock federal cash for a merged GM-Chrysler, including seeking an equity investment from the government or unlocking funds from its Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, the Journal reports.

Analysts and investors have begun to question whether one of the companies -- locked out of the credit markets and burning cash rapidly -- might have to seek bankruptcy protection. GM and Chrysler have dismissed the notion, according to the newspaper.

This article was written by a staff member of TheStreet.com.

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