Obama: Automakers 'Have to Step Up'
In a press conference this afternoon, President-elect Obama reiterated his support for the auto rescue plan, saying that "if any of these companies were to go under, it would have had a chain reaction through the economy. ... A collapse would have cost a lot more to the taxpayers."
He added that Chrysler and GM "have to step up" in the next three months to make tough decisions to restructure themselves as viable businesses. "We are all in this now," he said.
Asked whether he will change the terms of the auto loans, including some of the stipulations for worker wages, Obama said his economic team has not yet had a chance to look at all of the details of the current administration's plan and declined to comment on any possible changes.
"We started off with automakers coming to Congress asking for blank check," he said. "We need to force the kind of restructuring necessary to have a sustainable auto industry that is making the cars of the future. ... We, in baby steps, have moved in those directions."
He added that Americans' patience with the auto industry "is running out." Automakers, he said, "should seize on this opportunity over the next several weeks and months to come up with plan that is sustainable...My top priority is to create 2.5 million new jobs. ... I want some of those jobs to be in the auto industry."
Obama also announced additional appointments to his economic team:
Rep. Hilda Solis (D-Calif.) will be labor secretary.
Rep. Ray Lahood (R-IL), will be transportation secretary
Ron Kirk, mayor of Dallas, was named U.S. trade representative.
Karen Mills, a a private equity and venture capital investor, will lead the Small Business Administration.
December 19, 2008; 2:50 PM ET
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