Though it has chosen to rely on its own resources, rather than seek a federal bailout, officials at Ford Motor Co. have been keeping a close eye on the progress its two cross-town rivals are making in their bid for further government support.
And while it’s too early to tell whether Washington will approve the viability plans submitted by General Motors Corp. and Chrysler, on Tuesday, Ford’s President of the Americas, Mark Fields, told TheDetroitBureau.com, in an exclusive interview, that he sees signs that “bode well” for Ford’s domestic rivals.
One of the most critical signals came from President Obama himself, said Fields, noting the Commander-in-Chief’s recent reference to the auto industry as “one of the pillars of the economy.”
“For the sake of the industry, it’s very positive that the administration views the auto industry as (being so) vital,” Fields said.
The viability plans submitted by GM and Chrysler request billions more than the two automakers were originally granted, last December, by the Bush White House. The two automakers will close more plants, eliminate still more jobs and, in the case of GM, seek additional assistance from the Canadian and European governments. Nonetheless, General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner pointed out that his company directly or indirectly employs 1.3 million people – a number not likely to be lost on a president who is desperately seeking to reverse the current economic slide and create millions of new jobs.
A final plan will need be submitted by Chrysler and GM by March 31st, at which point a final decision will have to be rendered on the automakers’ requests. Though the president will likely have the final say, the bailout will be managed by a new, three-member board led by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. Until recently, it had been expected that Pres. Obama would name a single “car czar.”
For his part, Fields said that change in strategy is a good one. “Having a committee instead of a car czar will allow GM and Chrysler to educate more government officials to the state of the industry and the importance of the industry.”