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Obama Lays Out Plan to Refuel Automakers

President Barack Obama on Monday announced a limited reprieve for U.S. automakers, giving General Motors 60 days to restructure — with substantial assistance from the Treasury Department — and Chrysler 30 days to unite with Italian automaker Fiat. Obama, who spoke at the White House, said he was optimistic that his tough measures would mark a “new beginning— for U.S. car manufacturers, but he was careful to note that his patience is limited. Obama has said earlier efforts by the auto giants to restructure were not sufficient. “We … cannot continue to excuse poor decisions,— he said. “And we cannot make the survival of our auto industry dependent on an unending flow of tax dollars.— With the federal government already delving deeply into the financial and insurance industries, Obama was careful to emphasize that he does not want to run a car company.“Let me be clear: The United States government has no interest or intention of running GM,— he said. “What we are interested in is giving GM an opportunity to finally make those much-needed changes that will let them emerge from this crisis a stronger and more competitive company.—Obama laid out some benchmarks for GM, saying the company would have to show that it has “consolidated enough unprofitable brands— and “cleaned up— its balance sheets while producing a “credible model— for succeeding. While he seeks a restructuring, Obama emphasized that he wants it done in a way that will promote cleaner-burning cars. He said some of the money in the economic stimulus should be rejiggered to help pay for a new tax credit that will help consumers trade in old cars for more fuel-efficient vehicles. “I am absolutely committed to working with Congress and the auto companies to meet one goal: The United States of America will lead the world in building the next generation of clean cars,— he said.Obama said one of the benefits of Chrysler joining with Fiat is that the foreign automaker has the technology for producing more fuel-efficient cars. He said both Chrysler and GM may have to file for bankruptcy to help abet the changes, but that such a move should not be done in order to parcel up and sell a company or to spend years in litigation.Obama expressed sympathy for auto workers and said they were not to blame for the crisis, but he had little that was tangible to offer them.“It is a failure of leadership — from Washington to Detroit — that led our auto companies to this point,— Obama said.As they often do, Obama’s remarks included an implicit knock on the George W. Bush administration, saying the problems of Detroit had been ignored for too long.“Year after year, decade after decade, we have seen problems papered over and tough choices kicked down the road, even as foreign competitors outpaced us,— Obama said. “We, as a nation, cannot afford to shirk responsibility any longer.—

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