The White House decided to leave the question of a 'car czar' - a federal appointee to oversee aid to the Detroit Three automakers and their restructuring - to the incoming Obama administration, reports at the weekend said. The idea had been proposed in a rejected congressional bailout package.

But the outgoing administration handed oversight of the US$17.4bn loan package to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson instead - his office oversees the source of the rescue money - the $700bn Troubled Asset Relief (TARP) Programme passed by Congress in October and originally designed to help the banking industry, according to Reuters.

Deputy White House chief of staff, Joel Kaplan, told the news agency that, with a month to go before Barack Obama becomes president, the administration's priority was to set loan terms and get the bailout for General Motors and Chrysler out the door.

He said the Bush White House would be open to identifying someone to work with the companies and span the two administrations if the Obama team believed it would be helpful.

"We don't think that's something that we should impose ... just for 31 days when the next administration may or may not have a different view about how they want to handle it," Kaplan said.

An Obama transition official told Reuters the White House kept the president-elect informed of its auto plan deliberations but that Obama was not part of the decision.

The president-elect, who will be inaugurated on 20 January, told a news conference in Chicago that the auto companies over the next several weeks and months are going to have to "make some hard choices" and must "come up with a plan that is sustainable."