What is sinking the Big 3 is their combined $90 billion in health and retirement benefits for retired workers. That number alone dwarfs any retooling costs for alternative fuel vehicles. Historically, weak management caved to union demands and the chickens are home to roost. If the Big 3 survive, expect to see them pushing heavily for nationalized health care/insurance, so they can off-load their health costs.
Problem with that logic is that much of that money, like Social Security benefits has already been paid for by the employees through payroll deductions every week. So that Pension money is "supposed" to be in accounts that have nothing to do with operating expense, much the same as Social Security.
Folks who don't like unions like to blame this all on unions,and they certainly did their share of the damage in the 60-70s but at least understand how those Pensions are set up. They don't simply come off the general ledger.
Also, the company contributions to those funds [and most of the load was in the 70-80s] went out annually into the funds. Much of the monies for the Pension trust funds is already in the bank, not necessary for generation in the current FY for payouts.
So if the employee contributions were paid when the employee worked and the company matched funds when the employee worked, much of the monies for the Pensions were collected when the Auto Industry was making money hand over fist. Even insurance benefits, which were not paid ahead drop off when Medicare takes over for most participants.
So, using the "health and retirement benefits for retired workers" as an excuse for the current crisis is just not fact based.
While there might be $90B in total obligations, much of that is parked somewhere in trust funds for the very reason we have today...what if the company suddenly can't afford the pension payments.