With a nod from Hugo Chavez and Joseph Stalin....
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama asserted unprecedented government control over the auto industry Monday, rejecting turnaround plans from General Motors and Chrysler and raising the prospect of controlled bankruptcy for either ailing auto giant.
Eager to reassure consumers, Obama also announced the federal government would immediately begin backing the warranties that new car buyers receive — a step designed to signal that it is safe to purchase U.S.-made autos and trucks despite the distress of the industry.
In a statement read at the White House, Obama said he was "absolutely committed" to the survival of a domestic auto industry that can compete internationally. And yet, "our auto industry is not moving in the right direction fast enough," he added.
In an extraordinary move, the administration forced the departure of Rick Wagoner as CEO of General Motors Corp. over the weekend, and implicit in Obama's remarks was that the government holds the ability to pull the plug on that company or Chrysler.
"Let me be clear: The United States government has no interest in running GM; we have no intention in running GM," Obama said.
But that was at the same time he was formally announcing the departure of Wagoner, whom administration officials forced into retirement on Sunday in preparation for the president's remarks.
"This is not meant as a criticism of Mr. Wagoner, who has devoted his life to this company; rather it's a recognition that it will take a new vision and new direction to create the GM of the future," Obama said.