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Analysis: Obama tougher on car industry

He’s been more lenient with other bailed-out firms

President Barack Obama makes remarks about the American automotive industry on Monday in the Grand Foyer of the White House.

President Barack Obama makes remarks about the American automotive industry on Monday in the Grand Foyer of the White House.

WASHINGTON – President Obama is dealing with the beleaguered auto industry more sternly than he has with bailed-out banks and insurers as he takes the nation another step into uncharted government regulation of industry.

The decision could leave a lasting mark on his presidency, for good or for bad, in ways reminiscent of Ronald Reagan’s battle with air traffic controllers.

By now, it may seem obvious that the government is playing major roles in running huge corporations, including banks, insurance companies and automakers receiving billions of dollars in federal aid.

The Obama administration, perhaps reflecting public sentiment outside Michigan, has shown less patience with the auto industry than with other troubled sectors.

General Motors’ chief executive, Richard Wagoner, must go, the administration said, workers must make concessions and Chrysler must pursue a merger with Italian automaker Fiat SpA if more government help is to be considered.

The administration is tightening its oversight of bailed-out financial companies, too, but it has generally been more lenient in terms of time, personnel and other factors.

Automakers brought much of this woe on themselves, resisting changes over the years that might have made them more efficient and competitive. Now they suffer from Americans’ resentment of bailing out big companies, and from the perception that the once-mighty auto industry is less vital to the nation’s well-being than are financial institutions.

Obama tried to soften the anger Monday, by noting that Michigan has the nation’s highest unemployment rate, 10 percent.

“The pain being felt in places that rely on our auto industry is not the fault of our workers, who labor tirelessly and desperately want to see their companies succeed,” he said.



• Chrysler receives 30 days’ worth of funds to complete partnership with Fiat – or some other automaker.

• General Motors receives assurances of 60 days’ worth of federal financing to try to revise its turnaround plan under new management.

• The administration will protect consumer warranties on GM and Chrysler vehicles.

The Associated Press

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