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President tours Toledo Assembly Complex

by Bill Cawthon on

President Barack Obama today visited the Toledo Assembly Complex. Upon his arrival at the 1.5-million-square-foot assembly plant, the President was met by Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne, General Holiefield, Director of the UAW’s Chrysler Department General Holiefield and Ken Loortz, Director of UAW Region 2B. Mario Pino, the plant manager, and Walt Schweifert, UAW Local 12 Committeeman, escorted the President as he toured the trim line where the front end, instrument panel and center console are installed in the Jeep Wrangler.

After the tour, the President spoke to plant employees. He was introduced by Jill Opial, 37, who has worked at the plant for 17 years. Ms. Opial thanked the President for having faith in auto workers and for giving Chrysler the opportunity to reorganize. The President then congratulated the employees for the job they have done:

“Now, we had a few options. We could have followed the status quo and kept the automakers on life support by just giving them tens of billions of dollars of taxpayer money, but never really dealing with the structural issues at these plants. But that would have just kicked the problem down the road.

“Or we could have done what a lot of folks in Washington thought we should do, and that is nothing. We could have just let U.S. automakers go into an uncontrolled freefall. And that would have triggered a cascade of damage all across the country. If we let Chrysler and GM fail, plants like this would have shut down, then dealers and suppliers across the country would have shriveled up, then Ford and other automakers could have failed, too, because they wouldn’t have had the suppliers that they needed. And by the time the dominos stopped falling, more than a million jobs, and countless communities, and a proud industry that helped build America’s middle class for generations wouldn’t have been around anymore.

“So in the middle of a deep recession, that would have been a brutal and irreversible shock to the entire economy and to the future of millions of Americans. So we refused to let that happen.

“So I placed my bet on you. I put my faith in the American worker. And I’ll tell you what — I’m going to do that every day of the week, because what you’ve done vindicates my faith.”

“Today, all three American automakers are turning a profit,” the President continued. “That hasn’t happened since 2004. Today, all three American automakers are gaining market share. That hasn’t happened since 1995. And today, I’m proud to announce the government has been completely repaid for the investments we made under my watch by Chrysler because of the outstanding work that you guys did. Because of you.

“Chrysler has repaid every dime and more of what it owes the American taxpayer from the investment we made during my watch. And by the way, you guys repaid it six years ahead of schedule. And last night, we reached an agreement to sell the government’s remaining interest in the company. So, soon, Chrysler will be 100 percent in private hands. Early. Faster than anybody believed.”

After he finished speaking, President Obama shook hands with employees as they departed the Chrysler Group paint shop.

Bill Cawthon grew up in the auto industry in the 1950s. His Dad worked for Chrysler and Bill spent a number of Saturdays down on the plant floor at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. Bill is also the U.S. market correspondent for, a British auto industry publication, and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, which has named the Jeep Grand Cherokee the “SUV of Texas” several times and named the Ram 1500 as the “Truck of Texas” two years running.

Bill has owned five Plymouths (including the only 1962 “Texan”), one Dodge and one Chrysler and is still trying to figure out how to justify a Wrangler. He also has owned at least one of every 1:87 scale model of a Chrysler product. You can reach him directly at (206) 888-7324 or by using the form.

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