NEW YORK — Steve Rattner, leader of the automotive task force that brought General Motors and Chrysler back from the brink of death, believes the patients are recovering nicely and that all three American manufacturers are in position to enjoy a healthy future
In a talk to the International Motor Press Assn. here, Rattner said he believes auto sales could rise to 13,14, maybe even 15 million this year.
“We will see the profits of GM, Ford and Chrysler grow exponentially,” he predicted.
In addition, Rattner said, the program has been a good deal for the country. “Even if we get nothing more, the government will have gotten 90 percent (of its money) back. if the government can be patient, we can get a lot more.”
To those who have argued that the government should not have gotten involved, Rattner said there was no private market that would have financed the ailing companies,
If GM and Chrysler had been allowed to go out of business, he said, many suppliers would have been put out of business. As a result, Ford, which did not have to declare bankruptcy, would have had to shut down, too.
Had that happened, he asserted, there would have been thousands of jobs lost beyond those at the automotive companies.
The so-called car czar credited both the Bush and Obama administrations for making the auto industry giants’ recovery possible.
In particular, he cited the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), which provided the $82 billion investment needed to resize and restructure the companies. “Without that, recovery would not have been possible,” he said.
When he took the job, he said, President Obama set down two principles for the team to follow.
First, Rattner said, the president wanted fundamental change, not simply a temporary fix that would simply delay the day of reckoning.
Second, he wanted shared sacrifice to be part of the solution. “We worked as hard as possible to allocate pain fairly,” he insisted.
Asked later to comment on criticism that the United Auto Workers had gotten a better deal than the shareholders and salaried workers, he disagreed, noting that the UAW had to reorganize how workers got paid, and had to accept company stock to provide health-care coverage. “The unions will have to cut back,” he said.
In touting the success of the recovery effort, he also defended the choice of the “fresh eyes” who led the companies through bankruptcy.
He conceded the 14 members were not automotive industry experts, but “We were hired to do a financial restructuring, not to run an auto company.”
Looking back at all the changes that have been made to put the companies on a sound financial footing, Rattner concluded that “I think (the rescue effort) was extraordinarily successful.”
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