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Saturday, June 4, 2011

U.S. Treasury Sells Chrysler to Italy (Fiat) as Obama Boasts of Auto Industry Recovery


President Obama: Economy on bumpy 'road to recovery'

By ABBY PHILLIPJune 04, 2011

President Barack Obama on Friday told workers at a Chrysler plant in Toledo, Ohio, that the economy is on a bumpy “road to recovery,” hours after the release of a lackluster jobs report.
“This economy took a big hit,” Obama said. “Just like if you have a bad illness … it’s going to take a while for you to mend, and that’s what’s happening to our economy.”

Without mentioning the Labor Department’s May jobs report that showed the unemployment rate increasing from 9 percent to 9.1 percent, Obama said the economy has faced “headwinds” in recent months, including rising gas prices, the earthquake in Japan and instability in the Middle East.
“We’re going to pass through some rough terrain that even a Wrangler would have a tough time with,” Obama said, in reference to the Jeep truck produced at the Toledo plant. The quip was met with boos from the otherwise supportive employees in the audience.
Obama’s visit to the Chrysler plant was supposed to hammer home the point that his administration’s bold rescue of the auto industry prevented the loss of millions of jobs.
Amid a rising unemployment rate and a tepid 54,000 jobs created in May, though, Obama also sought to ease fears that the country could be slipping back into recession.
“We’ve got to rebuild this whole economy for a new age so that the middle class doesn’t just survive, but it thrives,” Obama said.
In Toledo, where manufacturing job losses have accelerated during the economic downturn, Chrysler employs more than 1,700 workers producing Jeep and Dodge vehicles.
Obama said that because the government stepped in to stabilize the auto industry, thousands of Chrysler jobs and employees of local businesses were saved — including local restaurant Rudy’s Hot Dog, where Obama stopped for a quick meal en route to the plant.
“We had a few options: we could have followed the status quo and kept the automakers on life support … but that would have just kicked the problem down the road,” Obama said. “Or we could have done what lots of folks in Washington thought we should do, and that is nothing. That would have triggered a cascade of damage across the country.”
On Thursday night, just ahead of Obama’s visit to Ohio, the Treasury Department took final steps to divest itself of Chrysler stock, selling its remaining stake to Italian automotive and finance company Fiat. The U.S. government will recoup more than $11.2 billion in federal dollars committed as part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program’s automotive financing initiative. Treasury expects to collect an additional $560 million in proceeds from the transaction with Fiat.
Obama praised Chrysler for repaying “every dime and more of what it owes the American taxpayer” six years ahead of schedule. And with Treasury’s sale of its stock, Obama said the company soon will be 100 percent privately owned (in Italy).
Now, the president said, the industry is thriving.

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