DEARBORN, MI --- Ford employees gave U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu a standing ovation today when he announced that the automaker would receive $5.9 billion in loans for the development of fuel-efficient cars, the Detroit Free Press reported. 

"The American innovation machine, when revved up, is without a doubt the best in the world," Chu said while speaking at Ford's Research and Innovation Center. 

Chu announced an $8-billion loan package that also includes $1.6 billion to Nissan and $465 million to Tesla Motors. The loans are the first from a $25-billion program created in 2007 and authorized by Congress last year, the Detroit Free Press reported. Ford plans to use the $5.9 billion in loans to retool 11 plants in five states, including Michigan Assembly in Wayne, MI. 

Ford President and CEO Alan Mulally said the company plans to spend a total of $14 billion in the United States on advanced technology over the next seven years. Ford hopes to draw on the first portion of the loans within 35 days.

"This is the kind of partnership that will help American manufacturing not just survive, but thrive," Mulally said. "Ford intends to be the fuel economy leader." 

Chu said he has been talking to Mulally every two to three days in an effort to complete the review process.