Former Chrysler chairman and CEO Lee Iacocca - who  took a federal loan to save the automaker three decades ago and paid it back early - has cautioned the government against encouraging the firing of current Detroit Big Three leadership.

"Having been there, I do not agree with the sentiment now coming out of Congress that the management should be changed as a condition of granting loans to the Detroit automakers," he said on Tuesday, accorsing to the Detroit News.

"You don't change coaches in the middle of a game, especially when things are so volatile. The industry has been brutalised by a totally unpredictable series of events over which it had little control and that is beating it unmercifully into the ground."

Iacocca said the companies had made mistakes, according to the Motown paper.

"The companies may not be perfect but the guys who are running them now are the only ones with the experience and the in-depth knowledge and understanding of how the car business really works. They're by far the best shot we have for success. I say give them their marching orders and then let them march. They're the right people to get the job done," he said.

The Detroit News noted that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi hadn't backed calls to fire the CEOs but did tell NBC's Today show they needed to perform.

"Well, I think it's a test for their CEOs. The next couple of weeks will test [as to] whether these are the people who can lead these auto companies into the future," Pelosi was quoted as saying.

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