U.S. Automakers 'Back in the Game,' Says Obama

Sept. 15, 2009
During a visit to a GM plant in Ohio, the president said the new fuel-efficiency standards for U.S. cars and light trucks were helping the auto industry evolve into a more competitive force after years of decline.

President Barack Obama declared on Sept. 15 that stricken U.S. auto giants were "getting back in the game" in a populist pitch for his economic plans in unemployment-blighted Ohio.

"As long as you've still got an ounce of fight left in you, I'll have a ton of fight left in me," Obama roared at a midwestern GM Assembly plant churning out a new generation of fuel-efficient Chevrolet Cobalt cars.

"I've said it before, I'm skinny but I'm tough," Obama said in the campaign-style speech, part of a concerted political push by the president as he aims to shore up public backing for his health care and economic policies.

The president argued that his administration's new fuel-efficiency standards for U.S. cars and light trucks were helping the auto industry evolve into a more competitive force after years of decline.

"It creates an even playing field, it's an action that is long overdue. It will give our auto companies clarity and stability and predictability," Obama said.

Obama warned however that though "American auto makers are getting back in the game... our economic troubles are far from over," adding that he did not want to "over promise" on how quickly the economy could rebound.

The president also lauded his administration's now completed "Cash for Clunkers" program, which offered consumers an incentive of up to $4,500 to turn in gas guzzlers and buy new fuel efficient vehicles.

"The Chevy Cobalt that you build here was one of GM's most sought-after cars under that program," Obama said. "Dealers across the country started running out of it. You need to build more."

As well as arguing that his economic policies were creating jobs, and helping an electorally crucial state, where unemployment has hit 11%, Obama also defended his government's intervention in the auto sector.

"As I've said before, I didn't run for president to manage auto companies. It wasn't something on my to-do list. It wasn't even something on my want-to-do list," Obama said.

"I like driving cars -- sometimes, you know, I can change a spark plug or change a tire, but I don't know so much about cars that I wanted to be deeply involved in the car industry."

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009

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