WASHINGTON — Months after the government took large ownership stakes in General Motors, Chrysler and auto lender GMAC Financial Services, top lawmakers and members of the Obama administration will be taking a close look at their investment.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and others will meet with company executives, state and local leaders and tour vehicle displays Monday at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, one of the auto industry's annual showcases.
Pelosi said they would visit Detroit "to see firsthand the innovative technologies the industry is investing in to create the jobs of the future and to ensure our national competitiveness. We go to Detroit with our commitment to continue to preserve our manufacturing base, which is essential to our economic and national security."
Lawmakers frequently visit the auto show but organizers said they received more interest from Washington this year, only months after the government steered General Motors Co. and Chrysler LLC through bankruptcy helped by billions in federal aid. GMAC, a key lender to GM and Chrysler dealers and customers, recently received its third taxpayer-funded bailout.
"This year we were swamped with additional requests," said Doug Fox, the auto show's chairman. Fox said the auto show created a separate grey-coloured credential because of the large demand from lawmakers and administration officials, distinguishing them from credentials issued to journalists, auto dealers and car company employees and executives.
With steep declines in auto sales and massive job losses, the Obama administration has awarded billions in funding for car companies to retool their auto plants to build more fuel-efficient cars, provided grants to spur the development of advanced batteries and pushed retraining programs for laid-off auto workers.
Pelosi, who was invited to the show by Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., will meet with Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and is expected to be joined by members of her House leadership team and members of Michigan and Ohio's congressional delegation. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., who has visited the show in past years, will also visit the exhibits.
LaHood and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis will represent the administration, which will include officials with the Transportation Department and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The two agencies oversee regulations for the industry involving fuel efficiency, safety and tailpipe emissions.
The auto show will feature 60 vehicle debuts and attract more than 5,000 journalists from 50 countries. The exhibit at Detroit's Cobo Center will include a 37,000-square foot venue called "Electric Avenue," featuring electric vehicles and prototypes from a dozen manufacturers.