WASHINGTON -- Critics scoffed when the Big 3 sent lawmakers and federal officials a glossy brochure this year that touted the importance of "the U.S. Auto Industry" to the nation's economy.
Today's industry amounts to much more than the declining General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and the Chrysler group, detractors of the Big 3 argued.
But Washington policy makers seem to be getting the Big 3's message: Domestic automakers need and deserve special attention from Congress and the Bush administration.
In the past two months, the Big 3 have racked up noteworthy wins in energy, highway and tax legislation and in proposed fuel economy rules.
The companies are downplaying their victories. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, some government officials are wondering whether they need to get tougher about energy conservation.
"What is done today can be undone tomorrow," says a cautious Dennis Fitzgibbons, director of public policy for DaimlerChrysler AG's Washington office.
Ziad Ojakli, group vice president for corporate affairs at Ford Motor, says the companies seek fair treatment, not special consideration.
GM spokesman Chris Preuss says the policy developments represent "a clear acknowledgment of the economic importance of the U.S. auto industry."
Industry representatives won't predict whether the winning streak will continue when Congress takes up other issues that affect the Big 3's competitiveness with import-brand automakers.
Health care and pensions top that list.