It is not just the US automakers that are facing the brink. Japanese automakers will also be facing similar challenges in the coming years - and no taxpayer money will (or should) save them from it.
This article from the Japan Times quotes a 39-year low for auto sales in Japan. All of a sudden people are realizing they don't need new cars, and maybe cars aren't so cool anyway after all.
This auto-slump is similar to the sub-prime mortgage crisis in many ways. For years the auto industry - in cahoots with credit card operators and others in the finance industry have contrived to convince the population that they NEED to buy the latest coolest sexiest extension of their personalities (on credit...). But just like the shiny new hovel in a deadpan suburban outpost miles and miles from the city with no public transport, people eventually realized that the dream they were sold is more of a nightmare - the financial and emotional burden of the debt combined with the un-fulfilled promise of a better life that a sterile suburban existence cannot ever provide.
Time for a little reality folks.
But the interesting thing here is that reality doesn't have to be all that painful. In fact it might actually be pleasant and preferable to our overly hedonistic existence of recent years (decades?). More emphasis on building walkable, livable communities (not "suburbs") has to be a good thing. Ride a bike, lose weight, meet and greet the neighbors on the way to school and work. Frugality can be surprisingly fulfilling.