Obama visits Detroit auto show – Toledo Blade
President Obama looks over the Chrysler Pacifica minivan with North American International Auto Show chairman Paul Sabatini, far left, and United Auto Workers President Dennis Williams at the auto show in Detroit.
DETROIT NEWS/DANIEL MEARS
DETROIT — President Obama on Wednesday toured the North American International Auto Show, joking that he’s in the market for a private car with his term up in less than a year, and he took on political critics for ignoring economic successes over the last seven years.
Mr. Obama also addressed the water crisis in Flint, Mich.: “If I was a parent there, I would be beside myself that my kids’ health could be at risk.
“We are going to have all the people of Flint’s backs as they work their way through this terrible tragedy,” Mr. Obama said. “It is a reminder of why you can’t shortchange basic services we provide to our people.”
The city’s water became contaminated with lead after it switched its water source in 2014 as a cost-cutting measure while under state financial management.
The President has confidence in the domestic auto industry. He used a federal rescue during its near collapse in 2009.
Mr. Obama also said he’ll have to give up the presidential limousine, known as “the beast” in less than a year.
“I figure I got to do a little browsing now at the auto show,” Mr. Obama said.
The President was warmly received by the United Auto Workers crowd of about 400 inside the UAW-General Motors Center for Human Resources. A gleaming facility used mostly for education, it does not permit nondomestic-made vehicles in its parking lot.
Mr. Obama said America has added 14 million new jobs and is on the longest job-creation streak in its history.
President Obama pauses while speaking about the Flint, Mich., water crisis at the United Auto Workers-General Motors Center for Human Resources in Detroit.
“The American economy today is 10 percent bigger than it was at its peak before the crisis,” he said. “When you hear people claiming that America’s in decline, they don’t know what they’re talking about. They’re peddling fiction during political season. It’s strange to watch people trying to outdo each other saying how bad things are. They’re racing to see who can talk down America the most. These are the same folks who would have let this industry go under.
“These are some of the same folks who back in Washington called our plan to save the auto industry the road to socialism. What I hear today, from some folks running for president who can’t bring themselves to admit what you guys have accomplished, I don’t like to take that seriously, because they ignore the progress we’ve made,” Mr. Obama said.
Auto sales had plunged 40 percent, 400,000 jobs were eliminated, and General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC were weeks away from running out of cash and collapsing in late 2008.
The bailout began with loans under George W. Bush’s administration, and ended up with $57 million in additional taxpayer support from the Obama Administration, which has been repaid. The industry in 2015 reported record sales of 17.47 million new cars and trucks.
The President used the example of Detroit to tout the benefits of union representation, of Americans working together, and of training and education.
In 2014, Vice President Joe Biden visited the auto show, and he praised Detroit’s successes after the federal rescue.
President Obama sits in the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV, an all-electric vehicle with a range of 200 miles on a charge. The car will be built at General Motors’ Orion plant.
DETROIT NEWS/DANIEL MEARS
Before Mr. Obama’s speech, about half of the Detroit auto show was blocked off by a big black curtain. This gave Mr. Obama a chance to tour the show. Many people waited outside the curtain.
He checked out the Fiat Chrysler Automobile plug-in hybrid model of the Chrysler Pacifica minivan unveiled at the show, and the 75th anniversary display of Jeeps, including the Wrangler made in Toledo.
He admired a bright yellow Corvette, then he got into a 2017 Chevrolet Bolt electric car that will be built at GM’s Orion plant.
Mr. Obama flew into Detroit Metropolitan Airport at about noon, and was met by Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan among others.
Before the auto show, the President stopped at Shinola manufacturing company and the Jolly Pumpkin restaurant. At the UAW rally, Mr. Obama showed off a Shinola watch that he said he already owned.
Michigan Republican Party Chairman Ronna Romney McDaniel said the President’s time in Michigan should have been better spent.
“President Obama toured Shinola and the Jolly Pumpkin, not Detroit Public Schools. He went to the auto show, not the city of Flint. While we all celebrate Detroit’s comeback, we wish he would have used his leadership to help those in our state who are suffering and need solutions.
“Thankfully, we have a governor who is focusing on those important issues,’’ Ms. Romney said.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.