Yesterday, the North American International Auto Show kicked off in Detroit, with companies unveiling their new vehicles and folks eager to get their first peek. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was on hand for the opening events, and Commerce Secretary John Bryson, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, and the Labor Department’s Director Office of Recovery for Auto Communities and Workers Jay Williams are all taking part in auto show activities this week.
The auto industry had a strong year in 2011. It’s easy to forget, but just a few years ago many people doubted whether there would even be an American auto industry in 2011.
When President Obama took office, we faced the worst recession since the Great Depression, and the American auto industry was hit hard. Hundreds of thousands of jobs were lost in the auto industry, and entire communities that depended on a dealership or a parts manufacturer were affected.
Both GM and Chrysler faced the stark choice of seeking government support or facing almost certain uncontrolled liquidations, which would have had a ripple effect across the industry, causing at least one million more jobs to be lost. The President refused to let that happen.
In the face of stiff opposition, the President made a tough choice to help provide the auto industry the temporary support it needed to rebuild their companies and get moving again. This was a difficult decision, and came with significant risk. But the President was not willing to walk away from these workers and this great American industry.
Today, the American auto industry is coming back, creating jobs and moving cars off the line. Last month, the automotive industry added nearly 11,000 positions, bringing the total number of jobs added in the fourth quarter of 2011 to 36,000. The industry added 100,000 jobs over the course of 2011.
Since Chrysler and GM emerged from bankruptcy in June of 2009, the auto industry has added back more than 170,000 jobs, the best period of job growth in more than a decade. While there’s more work to be done, it’s clear the auto industry is moving in the right direction.
In December, we saw auto sales climb for the seventh consecutive month. The Big Three -- Ford, GM and Chrysler -- all saw sale increases for December, and the year as a whole.
In addition, because of the President’s leadership, we have put in place historic higher fuel economy standards, which will save Americans $1.7 trillion in fuel costs and reduce oil consumption by 12 billion barrels. That means families will begin saving money at the pump this year.
But there’s a lot more work to do to get the American people back to work. The President will continue to fight to restore the economic security for the communities that were hit just a few years back, to strengthen the middle class and rebuild an economy where hard work pays off and responsibility is rewarded.
Folks in Detroit and in auto communities across the country know what it takes to get the job done. They know a little something about hard work. They know what it takes to fight to rebuild their community and we’ll continue to stand right by their side every step of the way.