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Obama Admin Presses Success of Auto Industry

President at D.C. Auto Show, VP Biden off to Michigan supplier.

by on Jan.31, 2012

The President checks out a Chevrolet Volt at the Washington Auto Show.

Barely a week after declaring “the U.S. Auto industry is back,” in the state-of-the-union message, President Barack Obama and VP Joe Biden took that message on the road,  the two men pressing for still more job growth – and for a political advantage in the upcoming election.

The President, who has had to defend his decision to bail out both General Motors and Chrysler, paid a visit to the annual Washington Auto Show to get a look at the latest models and to make it clear he will stand by his controversial decision.  Meanwhile, VP Biden  will be landing in Grand Rapids on Wednesday to visit an automotive supplier and promote the administration’s call for manufacturing jobs to return to the U.S.

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“It’s good to remember the fact that there were some folks who were willing to let this industry die,” Pres. Obama said during his tour of the auto show – a direct reference not only to the general position of the Republican party but specifically the stand taken by Mitt Romney, the apparent front-runner for the GOP’s presidential nomination.

Romney, often criticized for his tendency to  shift positions has been a consistent opponent of the 2009 bailouts, which initially cost the U.S. Treasury $85 billion.  Proponents insist the rescue effort  – which was initiated by President George W. Bush and continued by his successor — saved as many as 1 million job and prevented the Great Recession from turning into another depression.  But opponents note that the administration’s own data suggest it could eventually lose the government as much as $20 billion or so.

While the debate is likely to continue, both of the once-bankrupt automakers is clearly showing signs of a turnaround.  GM earned $1.7 billion during the third-quarter of 2011 and is expected to announce another nine-figure net in mid-February.  Tomorrow, Chrysler is expected to announce its first full-year net profit since 1997.

That is something Vice President Biden is certain to focus on during his visit to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he will tour the American Seating Company’s factory.  The 125-year-old supplier – which provides seats for buses, trains, stadiums and concert halls – has bucked recent tradition, maintaining work in the U.S. – where it sources 75% of its components.

The Veep is expected to continue pressing for the return of manufacturing jobs to the United States, a theme central to the state-of-the-union speech.

“It is time to stop rewarding businesses that ship jobs overseas, and start rewarding companies that create jobs right here in America,” the President said, last week.

The auto industry, which led the country in cutting jobs in the previous decade, has become one of the nation’s engines of employment.  Chrysler, for example, is set to hire in about 1,600 new workers starting next week.  Collectively, automakers operating in the U.S. – which includes foreign-owned brands like Toyota and Volkswagen – as well as industry suppliers have hired tens of thousands of U.S. workers since the economy hit bottom in 2009.

Some studies have suggested that as many as 200,000 auto and related jobs could be created during the course of this decade.  Notably, a sizable share could be based in the Midwest, a traditional manufacturing region that has been especially hard hit over recent decades.

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