General Motors and a top official at Chrysler owner Cerberus Capital Management urged President-elect Barack Obama and Congress to act immediately to support the U.S. auto industry and help the U.S. economy.

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DETROIT — General Motors and a top official at Chrysler owner Cerberus Capital Management urged President-elect Barack Obama and Congress to act immediately to support the U.S. auto industry and help the U.S. economy.

Cerberus Chairman John Snow, a former U.S. Treasury secretary, said on CNBC Wednesday that the country is experiencing the most serious economic crisis in 50 years and that Obama and his new Treasury secretary should quickly put together a bipartisan approach to addressing it.

“We’re facing a severe contraction in the United States and outside the United States. Hard to see how this isn’t clearly a recession now and maybe a serious and long one. We need a stimulus package,” Snow said.

Snow added, “What we need is to make sure that a vital industry like autos … which is such a big part of the overall economy, doesn’t lead us into a deeper and harsher downturn. The collapse of the auto industry at this time would be devastating for a new president.”

“This support comes at an especially critical time as our industry confronts one of the most difficult economic periods in our nation’s history, caused by the global financial crisis,” GM said.

Automakers have been seeking help in Washington, D.C., as their economic situations turn bleaker. GM is known to have been seeking $10 billion in aid.

GM lost $18.8 billion in the first half of this year and is said to be burning through more than $1 billion a month. Chrysler lost more than $1 billion during the same period. Analysts believe both companies could face a cash crunch next year.

Obama has pledged to support the domestic auto industry.