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U.S. may expand vehicle loan program to suppliers

Ernest Moniz: "Looking at the supply chain may be an important focus for a new program." Photo credit: Bloomberg

WASHINGTON (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. loan program to develop more fuel-efficient vehicles may expand to make suppliers eligible for the more than $15 billion in remaining funds, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said.

The department's Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing loan program has been dormant since 2011 -- even after the administration's pledge in August that it would be revived.

"We are looking at what those options might be including the potential of looking at the supply chain with a loan program," Moniz said today at the Washington Auto Show. "Looking at the supply chain may be an important focus for a new program."

Supported by Democrats including U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., the program stagnated after it made loans to two companies that later failed: Fisker Automotive Inc. and Vehicle Production Group LLC.

Other carmakers have repaid on time. Tesla Motors Inc. repaid its loan nine years early while Ford Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co. are repaying their loans on schedule.

Moniz declined to give a timetable for reviving the program, saying "hopefully it'll be soon."