WASHINGTON - Nearly two dozen members of the U.S. Senate sought answers on Friday from General Motors and Chrysler on efforts to resolve complaints from dealers who lost business with the car companies.
The Commerce Committee's Democratic chairman, John Rockefeller, its top Republican, Kay Bailey Hutchison, and 20 other members of the panel wrote to executives at GM and Fiat-led Chrysler for information on negotiations with retailers.
It's crucial that outstanding issues be resolved as expeditiously and efficiently as possible, the senators wrote.
Chrysler dropped nearly 800 dealers as part of its bankruptcy restructuring, while GM plans to whittle its retail network by 1,300 through 2010. GM also restructured in bankruptcy this year.
Hundreds of dealers complain that their franchise agreements were terminated unfairly in bankruptcy court and have turned to Congress for help.
The prospect of a legislative remedy is uncertain, and lawmakers have exerted pressure on the companies to negotiate some kind of solution.
Taxpayers hold a 60 percent stake in GM and a nearly 10 percent interest in Chrysler.
Those discussions are still underway, said GM spokesman Greg Martin, who declined to characterize the talks.
Chrysler had no immediate comment on the Senate inquiry.
GM could pay up to $600 million to compensate terminated franchises while Chrysler, which is now run by Italy's Fiat, offered tougher shutdown terms.
The Obama administration is not directly involved with the negotiations, and would disagree with any congressional action to overturn what it called exceptionally complicated decisions on dealership terminations.
We've urged the companies to meet with the dealers and try to work something out, Ron Bloom, the head of the administration's autos task force, told Reuters in an interview this week.
(Reporting by John Crawley; editing by Carol Bishopric)