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With Obama in the Driver’s Seat, Automakers Set Records – But Still Faced Challenges

"A good time for the auto industry.”

by on Jan.20, 2017

President Barack Obama's legacy as it relates to the auto industry will be largely considered positive, according to analysts.

As the new Trump Administration takes shape, auto industry leaders will be watching closely to see how it handles a wide range of issues, from fuel economy regulations to tariffs and trade. They’ll also be taking stock of what happened during the eight years when President Barack Obama was in the driver’s seat.

Few presidents since Franklin Delano Roosevelt, during the Great Depression, have been in power during a time of such mammoth change for this powerhouse industry. When he first entered the White House in January 2009, all three domestic automakers seemed ready to fail – two ultimately filing for bankruptcy before receiving massive bailouts. Today, the industry is, on the whole, turning record profits.

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Obama’s tenure coincided with monumental transformation in an industry that, at one point directly or indirectly employed one in seven Americans. And, observers contend, many of those changes will continue to play out during the years and decades to come, including the emergence of autonomous vehicles and the rise of ride- and car-sharing. (more…)

Obama Pushes Congress to Invest in Smarter Roads

President hypes vehicle-to-vehicle communications to cut crashes.

by on Jul.15, 2014

President Barack Obama talks with supporters in McLean, Virginia. During a speech there, he encouraged Congress to approve additional funding for the Highway Trust Fund, including new technology to make roads safer.

After spending much of his two terms prodding automakers to improve the mileage of vehicles as well as their operational efficacy, President Barack Obama today encouraged automakers to continue the development of “vehicle to vehicle” technology research and pushed lawmakers to fund its use.

Speaking at the Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center in McLean, Virginia, today, Obama spoke about the impact such technology could make on the safety of America’s roads. He also got a chance to get a look at the technology in person driving in a simulator that allowed him to experience the technology in real time.

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After hitting 90 mph in the simulator, he joked that anything makes the roads safer has taken on a new emphasis for him. (more…)

President’s Budget Proposal Could Be Big Boon for Auto Industry

Administration wants $2 bil for advanced vehicle research funding.

by on Apr.11, 2013

President Obama is proposing efforts to promote America's energy independence, including tax credits for electric vehicles.

President Barack Obama is proposing a number of new efforts designed to improve the nation’s transportation system, with a mix of high-speed rails, cleaner fuels, tax credits for those buying alternatively powered vehicles – and as much as $2 billion in funding for advanced vehicle programs.

“We’ll continue our march toward energy independence,” Obama said in presenting his budget proposal to Congress. A key goal will be to eliminate the need for foreign oil imports over the next decade.

Part of that would involve increasing the Department of Energy’s vehicle research budget by 75% to $575 million, while also creating an energy trust fund the administration had previously outlined.

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The budget proposal renewed the White House push to expand credits for those buying electric vehicles and plug-ins. Such buyers now qualify for up to $7,500 in tax credits – for which they may have to wait months until next filing with the IRS. The administration would like to bump the number up to $10,000 for qualified vehicles and have the credits become available more immediately.


Obama Wants to Fund Energy-efficient Communities

Grants would help communities set up advanced fueling stations.

by on Mar.08, 2012

President Obama announces a new $1 billion National Community Deployment Challenge to help boost the deployment of clean, advanced vehicles all over America.

With interest in cars such as the Chevrolet Volt waning, President Barack Obama went on the offensive Wednesday, announcing a new $1 billion fund to help 15 local communities encourage greater use of energy-saving technologies.

During a visit to the Daimler Freightliner plant in Mount Holly, N.C., Obama said the country has to find a way to reduce its dependence on oil.

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“If you make a commitment to buy more advanced vehicles for your community – whether they run on electricity or biofuels or natural gas – we’ll help you cut through the red tape and build fueling stations nearby,” the president said.

But Obama said he also wants to extend tax breaks on fuel efficient cars to company trucks, such as the ones Freightliner builds. (more…)

U.S. Unemployment Hits 26 Year High in June! Manufacturing Job Losses Lead the Way

Auto Sales rebound increasingly unlikely until next year. Where is an industrial policy or a stimulus package that creates jobs?

by on Jul.06, 2009

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden

Biden admitted that the administration had under-estimated the severity of the recession when it predicted that unemployment would peak at 8%.

The number of people in the U.S. out of work, 14.7 million June, continues to grow relentlessly in spite of government attempts to downplay the data. The continuing loss of jobs across broad sectors of the economy make it increasing unlikely that vehicle sales will rebound during the balance of this year or even early next year.

Already stressed automakers and their suppliers will likely be forced to cut back more, which makes further job losses predictable, as the economy continues to contract. It’s a viscous cycle we need to break.

Non-farm employment continued to fall in June, as another 467,000 taxpaying jobs were shed by employers, and the unemployment rate rose to 9.5%, a 26-year high, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some economists say the number is really 16.5%, if you include discouraged people who have not been able to find work and have dropped out of the job market. Either way, America’s ability to create wealth and prosperity is severely restricted.

Since the Great Recession officially began in December 2007, employment has dropped by 7.2 million workers, and the unemployment rate has increased by 4.6%. Roughly one-third of the unemployed have now been jobless for longer than 27 weeks.

There is no doubt that the U.S. is  in the deepest recession since World War II, and the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, if you consider our capital and housing markets. 

As people associated with auto manufacturing are all too well aware, job losses continue to mount at frightening rates. In June, once again, there were large decreases in manufacturing, construction, and professional and business services. Together, these three sectors have accounted for nearly three-quarters of the jobs lost since the recession began.

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In his weekly radio address on Saturday, President Barack Obama said “We are facing an array of challenges on a scale unseen in our time. We are waging two wars. We are battling a deep recession. And our economy – and our nation itself – are endangered by festering problems we have kicked down the road for far too long: spiraling health care costs; inadequate schools; and a dependence on foreign oil.”


EPA Grants California’s Waiver Request for Separate Emissions Standards

Latest defeat for the auto industry could create administrative chaos and severely restrict your new vehicle choices.

by on Jun.30, 2009

EPA Adminstrator Jackson

The Obama appointee claimed the waiver is appropriate and consistent with previous interpretations of the Clean Air Act by EPA.

At least 13 other states and the District of Columbia have said that they intend to follow California in instituting tougher standards than previously called for under federal regulation. Since these areas comprise about 40% of new car sales, it is possible that California legislators and bureaucrats will determine the size and types of cars that you can buy after 2016.

The first California waiver request was made in December 2005 under the Bush Administration and was subsequently denied in March 2008. This previous decision was based on an interpretation of the Clean Air Act finding that California did not have a need for its greenhouse gas emission standards to meet “compelling and extraordinary conditions,” EPA said in a statement defending the reversal of this previous policy ruling.

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“This decision puts the law and science first. After review of the scientific findings, and another comprehensive round of public engagement, I have decided this is the appropriate course under the law,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. The Obama appointee claimed the waiver is consistent with the Clean Air Act as it’s been used for the last 40 years. 

“More importantly, this decision reinforces the historic agreement on nationwide emissions standards developed by a broad coalition of industry, government and environmental stakeholders earlier this year,” she said.

While automakers dependent on government support and others observing the “bully pulpit” that the administration has used to shape the debate on automotive matters have been cowed into public silence, auto dealers, many them small business owners with Republican ties, are more vocal in their opposition.

“EPA’s decision to reverse its 2008 denial of California’s request for a pre-emption waiver is sadly a triumph of politics over good common sense,” said John McEleney, chairman of the National Automobile Dealers Association. “Moreover, with its action today, the Obama administration has effectively ceded the long-term setting of national fuel economy standards to unelected California regulators,” he added.

Just after taking office in late January, President Barack Obama directed EPA to assess the appropriateness of denying the waiver. EPA received a letter from California on January 21, 2009, raising several issues for Administrator Jackson to review regarding the denial.

Last month, President Obama announced a first-ever national policy aimed at both increasing fuel economy and reducing greenhouse gas pollution for all new cars and trucks sold in the United States. The new standards would cover model years 2012-2016. Cars and light trucks must average 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016, about 40% higher than today. Congress in 2007 passed a 35 mpg requirement by 2020. The accelerated time table will add thousands upon thousands of dollars to the cost of a new car critics say.


Jay Leno May Have Moved On. Ralph Nader Hasn’t

Nader injects himself into the debate over the future of General Motors and other automakers.

by on May.19, 2009

Ralph Nader, courtesy of the Nader for Presdent Campaign

Ralph Nader is still running for office.

In a letter to Senator Chris Dodd and Congressman Barney Frank consumer advocate Ralph Nader called on the Senate and House banking committees to hold “thorough” hearings to protect taxpayers’ investments and to seek answers to several questions about President Barack Obama’s Auto Task Force. Nader wants to know:

– Is the Task Force right in pushing for elimination of as many brands, as it has demanded?

– Is the Task Force asking for too many plants to close?

– Do GM and Chrysler really need to close as many dealerships as announced?

– Is the logic of closing dealers to enable the remaining dealers to charge higher prices; and if so, why is the government facilitating such a move?

– Is it reasonable and fair for GM to impose liability for disposing of unsold cars on dealers with which it severs relations, as Chrysler has apparently done?

– Has the Task Force evaluated the social ripple effects on suppliers, innovation, dealers, newspapers, banks and others that hold company stock and/or are company creditors, and other unique harms that might stem from bankruptcy?    (more…)

Rose Garden Ceremony Proclaims New Auto Emissions and Fuel Efficiency Policy

The President demonstrates his powers of persuasion and the collapse of auto industry influence.

by on May.19, 2009

President Obama at a Townhall meeting

In an historic first, the projected reduction of approximately 900 million metric tons in greenhouse gas emissions sets in motion a policy that says it's America's desire to deal with global warming after decades of denial.

For followers of the auto emissions and fuel economy wars that have been going on for five decades now, the announcement today by President Barack Obama that one “National Fuel Efficiency Policy” is decreed is a clear turning point in America’s growing interest in cleaning the air we all breathe.

It is also a stark demonstration of the growing inability of the auto industry to promote its own narrow self-interests to the detriment of the larger public good.

The proposed National Fuel Efficiency Policy adopts uniform federal standards to regulate both fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions while preserving the legal authorities of the Department of Transportation (DOT), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the State of California and 13 other States, according to the President.

The fuel efficiency program covers new vehicle model years 2012 to 2016, and ultimately requires an average fuel economy standard of 35.5 mpg in 2016. An estimated 1.8 billion barrels of oil will not be used by vehicles bought over the five-year life of the program — over an unspecified lifetime of each vehicle. The fuel economy gains of more than 5% per year would have once been unthinkable in lobbyist-dominated Washington.

In an historic first, the projected reduction of approximately 900 million metric tons in greenhouse gas emissions sets in motion a policy that says it’s America’s desire to deal with global warming after decades of refusing to do so. The 35.5 in 2016 is equivalent to taking 177 million cars off the road or shutting down 194 coal plants, according to the Administration.

Subscribe to TheDetroitBureau.comThe key component in this reduction is the increase in the average mileage requirement from new vehicles that leaves as road kill the existing CAFE law passed by Congress and President Bush in 2007. Back then, under heavy auto industry lobbying, the bill only required an average fuel economy of 35 mpg in 2020.

“In the past, an agreement such as this would have been considered impossible,” said President Obama. “That is why this announcement is so important, for it represents not only a change in policy in Washington, but the harbinger of a change in the way business is done in Washington.”  (more…)

Obama Plugs Electrification with Taxpayer Funds

The President visits an EV center, and hypes battery power on the Tonight Show.

by on Mar.20, 2009

Pres. Barack Obama visits CA EV test center, where he announced $2.4 bil program to support battery car development.

President Obama visiting a California electric vehicle test center. He announced a $2.4 billion program to support battery car development.

The nascent battery-car industry is about to get charged up with your money. During a visit to Southern California, President Barack Obama not only lent his support to the proposed electrification of the automobile – but also announced $2.4 billion in grants for the development of the underlying technologies.

The Department of Energy program will help fund research and development work on motors and related systems, but the vast bulk of the money will go to promote the development of a U.S. high-performance battery infrastructure. It is unknown how this program will differ from the failed “Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles” initiative of the 1990s,which spent billions of dollars of taxpayer money on developing the systems for green vehicles at Chrysler, Ford and General Motors that never appeared.

Appearing at a Southern California Edison facility used to test prototype battery-electric vehicles, or BEVs, the president noted that the grant program should help meet his goal of putting one million plug-in vehicles on the road by 2015, a stunning number given current sales rates, the state of the economy and previous consumer acceptance of electric cars.

On Thursday night, during an appearance on the Tonight Show, President Obama added that the administration wants to stop ceding dominance to other countries in the rush to electrify. Currently, there is only one facility in the entire country which can produce lithium-ion cells, while other operations simply package batteries produced overseas, mostly in China, Japan and South Korea. In fact, it was the exclusion of the Japanese from participating in the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles that spurred the Japanese government to help Toyota develop its innovative hybrid car, Prius, and its battery industry.

During his various appearances on Thursday, the President made numerous references to the American auto industry and its importance to the nation.  At the Edison facility, he appeared to signal the direction his administration will take when it comes time to decide on the additional aid requests from General Motors and Chrysler.

“Even as our American automakers are undergoing a painful recalibration, they are retooling and re-imagining themselves into an industry that can compete and win, because millions of jobs depend on it,” said Obama. (more…)