Obama Touts Auto Recovery, Yet AAM Says There's 'A Long Way To Go'

Although President Obama touted the recovery of the nation's auto industry near Detroit yesterday, a national manufacturing group said the country still has "a long way to go."

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Although President Obama touted the recovery of the nation's auto industry near Detroit yesterday, a national manufacturing group said the country still has "a long way to go."

Obama visited a Ford plant in Wayne, Michigan to kick off a three-state tour ahead of his State of the Union Address later this month.

The president highlighted his administration’s efforts in the wake of the recession, saying “America’s resurgence is real.”

"Plants like this one built more than cars,” Obama said. “They built the middle class in this country and that’s worth fighting for.”

Alliance for American Manufacturing President Scott Paul said the president’s visit comes amid “the strongest period of manufacturing job growth since the early 1990s.”

“But the administration fails to mention that we’ve only recovered one-third of the good-paying manufacturing jobs that were destroyed in the recession,” Paul said. “We still have a long way to go.”

The president’s visit followed reports this week that domestic auto sales exceeded analysts' expectations for 2014, with nearly 1 million more new vehicles sold than in 2013.

That success, however, did not extend to Ford, which saw flat sales as it transitioned to a new F-150 truck model.

The other two companies in the auto industry's "Big Three" reported sales gains last year despite prominent safety concerns.

Fiat Chrysler posted a 16 percent sales increase amid ongoing concerns about older Jeep models and a recall of airbags made by Takata Corp. that affected most auto companies.

General Motors, which issued a recall for 2.6 million vehicles due to defective ignition switches, still posted a 5 percent increase in sales. GM issued a recall for a separate ignition issue last week.

Falling gas prices — particularly in the latter half of 2014 — and the resulting rise in consumer confidence likelyhelped bolster vehicle sales, although automakers that have shifted to smaller, more fuel-efficient cars are likely to be challenged by an increased demand for trucks and SUVs.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration last month announced the end of the auto company bailout program enacted in the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown. With the Treasury Department selling its final holdings in Ally Financial, formerly GM finance agency GMAC, officials announced the government had recovered $70.42 billion of the $79.68 billion allocated through the program — a final cost to taxpayers of $9.26 billion.

“I ran not just to do the easy things. I ran to do the right thing, and saving the auto industry was the right thing to do," Obama said yesterday.

Paul lauded the recovery plan as well, saying it put "the entire auto supply chain on sound footing in the face of potential economic doom" while calling the current health of the country's auto industry "a point of national pride."

But Paul also said the Obama administration appears "tone-deaf" to automakers' concerns over the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership. He called on the White House to use ongoing negotiations over the trade agreement, which would include the U.S. and 11 other Pacific Rim nations, to address concerns over currency manipulation by Japan.

"If President Obama wants to do right by Michigan and auto workers, he’ll change course on the TPP, and fast," Paul said.

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