There have also been calls from US politicians for the car makers to carry out extensive restructuring plans and for chief executives to step down as part of a government aid package.

US car manufacturers are under pressure to come up with a detailed restructing plan [AFP]

"If this management team that's currently in place doesn't understand the urgency of the situation and is not willing to make the tough choices and adapt to these new circumstances, then they should go," Obama said in Chicago on Sunday

For his part, Christopher Dodd, the US senate's banking committee chairman, said it was time for Rick Wagoner, General Motors chief executive, to step down.

Any rescue plan is also likely to face opposition from Republicans in the US congress.

Richard Shelby told Fox News on Sunday that the planned bailout was a "bridge loan to nowhere".

Rising unemployment

The companies have blamed the global financial crisis, falling demand for large vehicles, and a worldwide economic slump for their woes.

And rising unemployment in the US has led to pressure on politicians to agree a deal to save jobs in the industry.

On Friday, the US unemployment rate rose to a 15-year high of 6.7 per cent from 6.5 per cent in October, with more than 533,000 jobs lost in November, the labour department said.

"I have said repeatedly that to allow the auto industry to collapse precisely at a time when we are seeing record joblessness in unacceptable," Obama said .