Washington (AFP) – President Barack Obama said Saturday that he would visit the Detroit Auto Show this month so he can personally see how the industry has recovered since he took office.
In his weekly radio and online address, Obama focused on how his policies helped the US car industry recover.
In 2009, as the global financial crisis peaked, “the American auto industry was on the brink of collapse,” Obama said.
“Plants were closing. Hundreds of thousands of workers were getting laid off … another one million Americans would have lost their jobs,” he said.
In a controversial move taken early in his presidency, Obama bailed out two major US auto companies to the tune of $80 billion. The plan was initiated under president George W. Bush, but Obama largely oversaw the bailout.
The money helped General Motors and the Chrysler Group, now Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Ford did not take any bailout funds.
“In exchange for help, we demanded responsibility,” Obama said. “We said the auto industry would have to truly change, not just pretend that it did.”
While critics derided the plan as a “road to socialism” or a “disaster” waiting to happen, Obama said, “I’d make that bet again any day of the week.
“Because today, the American auto industry is back. Since our plan went into effect, our automakers have added more than 640,000 new jobs. We’ve cut the Detroit-area unemployment rate by more than half. The Big Three automakers are raising wages.”
Auto sales hit a 27-year low in 2009, but last year “they hit an all-time high,” he said.
“Later this month, I’ll visit the Detroit Auto Show to see this progress firsthand. Because I believe that every American should be proud of what our most iconic industry has done.”
The White House said that Obama will visit the annual vehicle extravaganza on January 20.
In the address Obama, who is in his last year in office, crowed about economic growth and progress during his presidency, including “more than 14 million new jobs” as well as slashing the federal deficit and a major expansion of health care coverage.
“The point is,” Obama said, “America can do anything. Even in times of great challenge and change, our future is entirely up to us.”