President Barack Obama's automotive task force is focused on solving the industry's problems outside of bankruptcy and will likely continue to provide funding long after a pending March 31 deadline, the group's lead adviser told the Detroit Free Press. "Bankruptcy is not our goal," Steven Rattner said in a the newspaper inteview published Monday. "I've been in and around bankruptcy for 26 years as part of my private-sector work. It is never a good outcome for any company, and it's never a first choice." Rattner also said the panel was committed to meeting the March 31 deadlines specified in loan deals with General Motors ( GM) and Chrysler, but decisions on further aid could come later. "It's entirely possible, in fact I think it's more than likely, that what you will see is not a single announcement at a point in time that's the beginning of the end of our policy efforts for the auto industry, but rather a series of actions over perhaps a reasonably long period of time to solve this problem," he said. Additionally, Rattner said the task force is seeking ways to help auto- company suppliers survive. "The supplier problem is very, very urgent," he told the newspaper. "They have not yet received any government help. They have been left on their own. We need to see if there's some way to help them that is sound and consistent with our overall approach to this industry." Meanwhile, Rattner told The Detroit News that the task force has not decided whether to approve a deal in which Fiat would acquire a 35% stake in Chrysler. "We need to understand better where Fiat is at and whether that is potentially a realistic deal or not before we know where to go next on that one," he said.
Also Monday, Troy Clarke, president of GM North America. told CNBC that GM's March vehicle sales numbers are following the same slow pace as sales in January and February. Monday morning, shares of GM were trading down 16 cents at $2.56, while shares in Ford ( F) were up 4 cents at $2.23.