America's three biggest carmakers have requested $25 billion (£16.5 billion) in emergency funding from the US government in a bid to save their companies from collapse.
However, the request was opposed in Congress by Republicans and the Bush administration who do not want to dip into their treasury department's $700 billion (£460 billion) financial bailout programme to help the automotive industry.
General Motors' chief executive officer Rick Wagoner blamed the industry's predicament on the deepening global financial crisis, telling the Senate Banking Committee: "Our industry ... needs a bridge to span the financial chasm that has opened up before us."
Robert Nardelli, chief executive officer of Chrysler, added that the bailout would be "the least costly alternative" when compared with damage from bankruptcy.
Both men told senators they would be willing to consider slashing their salaries to $1 to show a willingness to sacrifice for federal help.
But Democratic Senator and panel chairman Christopher Dodd told the leaders of GM, Chrysler and Ford that the industry was "seeking treatments for wounds that I believe to a large extent were self-inflicted".
"You're asking an awful lot," he said. "I'd like to tell that you in the next couple of days this is going to happen. I don't think it is."
Copyright © Press Association 2008