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Dealers to meet autos task force

US auto dealer representatives will meet with the government task force charged with retooling the auto industry to make the case that a bankruptcy for General Motors Corp should not be an option, people briefed on the planned meeting told Reuters.

The National Automobile Dealers Association, which represents about 20,000 US new car dealers, plans to tell the autos task force that a “radical cut” in the number of GM's dealers would make the struggling automaker less viable, one of the sources said.

The dealer representatives will also argue that the Obama administration's focus should be restoring credit availability for consumers and dealers, said the source, who asked not to be named because the information has not been made public.

The meeting comes a week after GM Chief Executive Fritz Henderson said the automaker was accelerating its plan to reduce the number of dealers as it rushed to meet a June 1 deadline to restructure under US government oversight.

Sources briefed on GM's turnaround plan told Reuters last week that the automaker was accelerating its timetable for closing about 1,700 dealerships.

GM ended 2008 with more than 6,200 dealers in the United States and had presented a plan to the task force, run by former investment banker Steve Rattner, that would have cut that figure by about 25% over the next five years.

The task force rejected GM's dealer consolidation plan as one element of a turnaround that officials said did not go far enough or move fast enough. (Reuters)