Make us your home page
Instagram

Obama, touring Chrysler plant in Indiana, sees hope for auto industry

KOKOMO, Ind. — President Barack Obama promoted the revival of the U.S. auto industry Tuesday, taking his pitch to the heart of the Rust Belt, where a bruising economy has taken its toll on Democrats.

Obama and Vice President Joe Biden toured a rebounding Chrysler transmission plant in this hard-hit industrial city, holding it up as a symbol of the "hope and confidence" of a better economy, even while millions are still unemployed and hurting.

"We're coming back," Obama said. "We're on the move."

Kokomo got a big boost from Chrysler on Tuesday when the automaker announced it plans to pump $843 million more into three factories to build a new front-wheel-drive transmission.

Chrysler said the investment will pay for equipment to modernize the two Kokomo transmission factories and a casting plant. It will extend the life of the plants and help retain nearly 2,250 jobs, equipping the plants to build a new front-wheel-drive transmission for unspecified future vehicles, the company said.

General Motors, meanwhile, will bring back nearly 200 laid-off workers at an engine plant in Flint, Mich., according to a person familiar with GM's plans.

Declared one of "America's fastest-dying towns" by Forbes magazine in 2008, Kokomo hit bottom in June 2009 when unemployment in the medium-sized city in north-central Indiana reached 20.4 percent. The city's unemployment rate is still higher than the national average, but it had dropped by nearly 8 percentage points to 12.7 percent in September.

The visit represented the White House's new focus on showcasing the results behind the Obama administration's politically contentious economic stimulus and the bailouts of the two U.S. automakers.

"We made the decision to stand with you because we had confidence in the American workers, and today we know that was the right decision," the president said in Kokomo.

For Obama, the visit was also a chance to promote the $800 billion economic stimulus he pushed through Congress in the early days of his presidency.

Obama went out of his way Tuesday to connect with the public, at one point stopping at a small bakery to order pumpkin rolls, apple fritters, cinnamon rolls and doughnuts.

In his speech at the Chrysler plant, Obama said that in his "obsessive focus on policy, I neglected some things that matter a lot to people."

Among them, he said, "was getting out of Washington and spending more time shaping public opinion and being in a conversation with the American people about why I was making the choices I was making."

Despite signs of recovery, the economy is growing too slowly to reduce the nation's unemployment rate, which stands stubbornly at 9.6 percent, and Obama and his fellow Democrats felt the repercussions in this month's midterm elections.

In Indiana, Democrats lost a Senate seat and two House seats and were driven into the minority in the state Legislature.

Democrats also suffered major losses in Ohio, Michigan and Illinois — all states that Obama carried in his 2008 presidential run.

.fast facts

GM payback

The Treasury Department said it has received $11.7 billion from the sale of 358.5 million shares of General Motors stock. Treasury officials announced that the net proceeds from the GM stock sold last week were delivered Tuesday. They said the government could receive an additional $1.8 billion, assuming the underwriters exercise options to purchase an additional 53.8 million shares of GM common stock within 30 days of the initial stock offering. The government put $49.5 billion into GM as part of its bailout of the giant automaker.

Obama, touring Chrysler plant in Indiana, sees hope for auto industry 11/23/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 1:23pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Associated Press.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. SeaWorld shares drop Monday to 2017 low after disclosure of federal subpoena

    Tourism

    The Orlando parent company of SeaWorld and Busch Gardens theme parks saw its stock drop 3.5 percent Monday to $15.10, its lowest price of this year.

    Killer whales perform at Shamu Stadium at SeaWorld in Orlando in 2011, before public pressure was placed on the theme park company to curtail its orca shows.SeaWorld has since announced an end to the traditional killer whale entertainment  at its theme parks. [AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack]
  2. Rick Scott appoints 'my friend,' Jimmy Patronis, as Florida CFO

    State Roundup
    Rick Scott appoints Jimmy Patronis (background) as CFO. [STEVE BOUSQUET | Tampa Bay Times]
  3. Local gas prices plummet as Fourth of July holiday travel approaches

    Tourism

    TAMPA — Local gas prices are enjoying an unseasonal dip around the $2 mark just in time for the hectic Fourth of July holiday travel weekend.

    The price of regular unleaded gasoline has dropped to $1.99 at a Rally station on Pasadena Ave. South and Gulfport Boulevard South, South Pasadena.
[SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

  4. Air bag recalls, lawsuits lead Takata to file for bankruptcy

    Autos

    Shattered by recall costs and lawsuits, Japanese air bag maker Takata Corp. filed Monday for bankruptcy protection in Tokyo and the U.S., saying it was the only way it could keep on supplying replacements for faulty air bag inflators linked to the deaths of at least 16 people.

    Japanese air bag maker Takata Corp. CEO Shigehisa Takada bows during a press conference in Tokyo on Monday. Takata has filed for bankruptcy protection in Tokyo and the U.S., overwhelmed by lawsuits and recall costs related to its production of defective air bag inflators.
[(AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi]
  5. Airbag maker Takata bankruptcy filing expected in Japan, U.S.

    Corporate

    DETROIT — Japanese airbag maker Takata Corp. has filed for bankruptcy protection in Tokyo and the U.S., overwhelmed by lawsuits and recall costs related to its production of faulty air bag inflators.