Unlike most other industries, automaking has one firm that was once the largest in America and another once third largest perched at the precipice of bankruptcy. Ford is a small step back from the brink only because it mortgaged itself to the hilt (and Blue Oval). What’s more, these firms are at the apex of a supply chain and matrix of jobs that is broader and deeper than any other in the country. One thing the Obama administration brings is a more sympathetic ear to the employment ramifications of decisions affecting the industry. Politicians of all stripes talk about jobs like Mom and apple pie. But Democrats are more likely to protect workers tangibly and directly, as opposed to mainly touting the trickle-down benefits of bailing out bankers and Wall Street. For America’s home-grown automakers, that means a better chance at ongoing life support, or at least a kinder, gentler glide path to business structures more in line with sustainable market shares.
New car sales have long been a key barometer of the economy. While it’s not clear that boosting auto sales in particular is a good way to boost the economy in general, it is clear that restoring overall economic health is crucial for getting car sales back in gear. The Obama folks are making economic recovery Job One. Promising a stimulus package of massive proportions and enjoying the backing of congressional leadership, Obama’s ability to quickly push it through is sine qua non for whatever else might need to be done to reinvigorate Detroit.