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The Auto Industry and the Obama Administration

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Today's challenging economic environment presents a powerful opportunity for the incoming administration to bring America's largest manufacturing sector together with the environmental lobby, state governors, as well as Congress, to unite in providing America with a comprehensive solution on issues of energy and climate change, while also addressing issues that impact the broader American economy as a whole.

Automakers want very much to improve fuel economy and reduce CO2 emissions, thereby doing their part to eliminate problems and be part of a serious solution in the above regard.

During the campaign President-Elect Obama stated, "Few have been harder hit by our credit crisis than the workers who make our cars and the companies that supply their parts. Now, when it came to rescuing Wall Street, Washington didn't waste a minute. But now that autoworkers are suffering, Washington's put on the brakes. It turns out it could take a year for the auto industry to get the loan guarantees we passed a few weeks ago. Well, the workers who are being laid off and the companies that are seeing their sales drop -- they can't afford to wait a year, they need help right now. That's why I've called on Washington to fast-track those loan guarantees and provide more as needed -- because that's how we'll secure our auto jobs and save our auto industry."

President-Elect Obama was absolutely correct in his analysis and suggestions as regards Washington's response to the current crisis.

As America's largest manufacturing industry suffers, so too does the economy and American middle class as a whole. Fewer car sales mean less production and available work. Parts suppliers are all but immediately impacted and their large work forces feel the impact through reduced employment and potential lay-offs.

In its entirety, the scope of America's auto industry, now in trouble, means the negative ramifications will eventually be felt broadly across the economy, hitting everyone from home lenders, state and local governments and major and small retail operators, too.

Ultimately, the impact comes full circle, reducing car sales even more and a vicious downward spiral reeking havoc across the nation's economy will result.

The auto industry does not represent simply executives, manufacturing plants and parts. It defines a large sector of America as a community which is representative of the best and most productive of America's middle class. And that community needs help.

At the same time, the auto industry recognizes and accepts its important responsibility to be on the leading edge of a new energy economy. To produce the next generation of technology and vehicles to meet the challenges of fuel economy and CO2 reduction requires a healthy, competitive auto industry and clear national leadership.

Our industry wants to and is prepared to be a major part of that leadership. But it requires a healthy and robust car industry in order to efficiently produce what America now requires.

Even now, our engineers and designers continue working toward the next technology breakthroughs that will even further reduce oil dependence and carbon dioxide emissions. A thriving auto sector working towards meeting a national solution could create the biggest wave of "green jobs" our nation has ever seen.

But currently those efforts face significant risk.

To get on track and begin meeting these challenges America's auto makers need the certainty of a single national standard set by the federal government and fast-tracking of the loan guarantees to help automakers retool for the next generation of fuel-efficient autos.

And this also requires an economic stimulus plan that includes adequate measures to help consumers get back into auto showrooms. Increased credit availability as part of an effort to spur consumer sales will help all of America to achieve important goals during this time of economic distress.

In the current difficult times, we need a comprehensive effort to shore up an important portion of America's middle class and significantly advance America's Green technology efforts toward meeting goals we all see as critical to America and generations of hard-working Americans to come.