President Obama says he wants auto companies to survive -- but they must be able to compete - WDRB 41 Louisville News

President Obama says he wants auto companies to survive -- but they must be able to compete

President Obama says he is committed to the survival of an auto industry on terms that will allow it to compete internationally.  "But we also cannot continue to excuse poor decisions," he said. "And we cannot make the survival of our auto industry dependent on an unending flow of tax dollars."

He also said some of the industry's progress has scarcely been noticed. He mentioned that the North American car of the year in 2008 was produced by GM.

"Let me be clear: The United States government has no interest in running GM; we have no intention in running GM," Obama said.  But that was at the same time he was formally announcing the departure of Wagoner, whom administration officials forced into retirement on Sunday in preparation for the president's remarks.

"This is not meant as a criticism of Mr. Wagoner, who has devoted his life to this company; rather it's a recognition that it will take a new vision and new direction to create the GM of the future," Obama said.

Other changes at GM include new directors on its board. Fritz Henderson, GM's president and chief operating officer, became the new CEO. Board member Kent Kresa, the former chairman and CEO of defense contractor Northrop Grumman Corp., was named interim chairman of the GM board.

"The board has recognized for some time that the company's restructuring will likely cause a significant change in the stockholders of the company and create the need for new directors with additional skills and experience," Kresa said in a written statement.

The Obama move comes amid public outrage over bonuses paid to business leaders and American International Group executives -- set against a severely ailing economy.

GM failed to make good on promises made in exchange for $13.4 billion in government loans. Chrysler, meanwhile, has survived on $4 billion in federal aid during this economic downturn and the worst decline in auto sales in 27 years. In progress reports filed with the government in February, GM asked for $16.6 billion more and Chrysler wanted $5 billion more.

GM owes roughly $28 billion to bondholders. Chrysler owes about $7 billion in first- and second-term debt, mainly to banks. GM owes about $20 billion to its retiree health care trust, while Chrysler owes $10.6 billion.

GM and Chrysler employ about 140,000 workers in the U.S. In February, GM said it intended to cut 47,000 jobs around the globe, or almost 20 percent of its work force, close hundreds of dealerships and focus on four core brands -- Chevrolet, Cadillac, GMC, and Buick.

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