For Immediate Release
March 30, 2009
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON THE AMERICAN AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY
11:07 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody.
One of the challenges we’ve confronted from the beginning of this administration is what to do with the state of the struggling auto industry. In recent months, my Auto Task Force has been reviewing requests by General Motors and Chrysler for additional government assistance, as well as plans developed by each of these companies to restructure, to modernize, and to make themselves more competitive. Our evaluation is now complete. But before I lay out what needs to be done going forward, I want to say a few words about where we are and what led us to this point.
It will come as no surprise that some Americans who have suffered most during this recession have been those in the auto industry and those working for companies that support it. Over the past year, our auto industry has shed over 400,000 jobs, not only at plants that produce cars, but at the businesses that produce the parts that go into them and the dealers that sell and repair them. More than one in 10 Michigan residents is out of work — the most of any state. And towns and cities across the great Midwest have watched unemployment climb higher than it’s been in decades.
The pain being felt in places that rely on our auto industry is not the fault of our workers; they labor tirelessly and desperately want to see their companies succeed. It’s not the fault of all the families and communities that supported manufacturing plants throughout the generations. Rather, it’s a failure of leadership — from Washington to Detroit — that led our auto companies to this point.
Year after year, decade after decade, we’ve seen problems papered over and tough choices kicked down the road, even as foreign competitors outpaced us. Well, we’ve reached the end of that road. And we, as a nation, cannot afford to shirk responsibility any longer. Now is the time to confront our problems head-on and do what’s necessary to solve them.
We cannot, and must not, and we will not let our auto industry simply vanish. This industry is like no other — it’s an emblem of the American spirit; a once and future symbol of America’s success. It’s what helped build the middle class and sustained it throughout the 20th century. It’s a source of deep pride for the generations of American workers whose hard work and imagination led to some of the finest cars the world has ever known. It’s a pillar of our economy that has held up the dreams of millions of our people. And we cannot continue to excuse poor decisions. We cannot make the survival of our auto industry dependent on an unending flow of taxpayer dollars. These companies — and this industry — must ultimately stand on their own, not as wards of the state.
And that’s why the federal government provided General Motors and Chrysler with emergency loans to prevent their sudden collapse at the end of last year — only on the condition that they would develop plans to restructure. In keeping with that agreement, each company has submitted a plan to restructure. But after careful analysis, we’ve determined that neither goes far enough to warrant the substantial new investments that these companies are requesting.
And so today I’m announcing that my administration will offer GM and Chrysler a limited additional period of time to work with creditors, unions, and other stakeholders to fundamentally restructure in a way that would justify an investment of additional taxpayer dollars. During this period they must produce plans that would give the American people confidence in their long-term prospects for success.
Now, what we’re asking for is difficult. It will require hard choices by companies. It will require unions and workers who have already made extraordinarily painful concessions to do more. It’ll require creditors to recognize that they can’t hold out for the prospect of endless government bailouts. It’ll have to — it will require efforts from a whole host of other stakeholders, including dealers and suppliers. Only then can we ask American taxpayers who have already put up so much of their hard-earned money to once more invest in a revitalized auto industry.
But I’m confident that if each are willing to do their part, if all of us are doing our part, then this restructuring, as painful as it will be in the short term, will mark not an end, but a new beginning for a great American industry — an auto industry that is once more out-competing the world; a 21st century auto industry that is creating new jobs, unleashing new prosperity, and manufacturing the fuel-efficient cars and trucks that will carry us towards an energy-independent future. 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.
And no one can deny that our auto industry has made meaningful progress in recent years — and this doesn’t get talked about often enough. Some of the cars made by American workers right now are outperforming the best cars made abroad. In 2008, the North American Car of the Year was a GM. This year, Buick tied for first place as the most reliable car in the world. Our companies are investing in breakthrough technologies that hold the promise of new vehicles that will help America end its addiction to foreign oil.
But our auto industry is not moving in the right direction fast enough to succeed in a very tough environment. So let me discuss what measures need to be taken by each of the auto companies requesting taxpayer assistance, and I’ll start with General Motors.
GM has made a good faith effort to restructure over the past several months — but the plan that they’ve put forward is, in its current form, not strong enough. However, after broad consultation with a range of industry experts and financial advisors, I’m absolutely confident that GM can rise again, providing that it undergoes a fundamental restructuring. As an initial step, GM is announcing today that Rick Wagoner is stepping aside as Chairman and CEO. This is not meant as a condemnation of Mr. Wagoner, who’s devoted his life to this company and has had a distinguished career; rather, it’s a recognition that will take new vision and new direction to create the GM of the future.
In this context, my administration will offer General Motors adequate working capital over the next 60 days. And during this time, my team will be working closely with GM to produce a better business plan. They must ask themselves: Have they consolidated enough unprofitable brands? Have they cleaned up their balance sheets, or are they still saddled with so much debt that they can’t make future investments? Above all, have they created a credible model for how not only to survive, but to succeed in this competitive global market?
Let me be clear: The United States government has no interest in running GM. We have no intention of running GM. 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.
The situation at Chrysler is more challenging. It’s with deep reluctance but also a clear-eyed recognition of the facts that we’ve determined, after careful review, that Chrysler needs a partner to remain viable. Recently, Chrysler reached out and found what could be a potential partner — the international car company Fiat, where the current management team has executed an impressive turnaround. Fiat is prepared to transfer its cutting-edge technology to Chrysler and, after working closely with my team, has committed to build — building new fuel-efficient cars and engines right here in the United States. We’ve also secured an agreement that will ensure that Chrysler repays taxpayers for any new investments that are made before Fiat is allowed to take a majority ownership stake in Chrysler.
Still, such a deal would require an additional investment of taxpayer dollars, and there are a number of hurdles that must be overcome to make it work. I’m committed to doing all I can to see if a deal can be struck in a way that upholds the interests of American taxpayers. And that’s why we’ll give Chrysler and Fiat 30 days to overcome these hurdles and reach a final agreement — and we will provide Chrysler with adequate capital to continue operating during that time. If they are able to come to a sound agreement that protects American taxpayers, we will consider lending up to $6 billion to help their plan succeed. But if they and their stakeholders are unable to reach such an agreement, and in the absence of any other viable partnership, we will not be able to justify investing additional tax dollars to keep Chrysler in business.
Now, while Chrysler and GM are very different companies with very different paths forward, both need a fresh start to implement the restructuring plan they develop. That may mean using our bankruptcy code as a mechanism to help them restructure quickly and emerge stronger. Now, I want everybody to be clear about this. I know that when people hear the word “bankruptcy” it can be unsettling, so let me explain exactly what I mean. What I’m talking about is using our existing legal structure as a tool that, with the backing of the U.S. government, can make it easier for General Motors and Chrysler to quickly clear away old debts that are weighing them down so that they can get back on their feet and onto a path to success; a tool that we can use, even as workers staying on the job building cars that are being sold.
What I’m not talking about is a process where a company is simply broken up, sold off, and no longer exists. We’re not talking about that. And what I’m not talking about is a company that’s stuck in court for years, unable to get out.
So it’s my hope that the steps I’m announcing today will have a salutary effect — will go a long way forward towards answering many of the questions that people have about the future of GM and Chrysler.
But just in case there’s still nagging doubts, let me say it as plainly as I can: If you buy a car from Chrysler or General Motors, you will be able to get your car serviced and repaired, just like always. Your warranty will be safe. In fact, it will be safer than it’s ever been, because starting today, the United States government will stand behind your warranty.
But we must also recognize that the difficulties facing this industry are due in no small part to the weaknesses in our economy as a whole. And therefore, to support demand for auto sales during this period, I’m directing my team to take several steps.
First, we will ensure that Recovery Act funds to purchase government cars get out as quickly as possible and work through the budget process to accelerate other federal fleet purchases, as well.
Second, we’ll accelerate our efforts through the Treasury Department’s Consumer and Business Lending Initiative. And we are working intensively with the auto finance companies to increase the flow of credit to both consumers and dealers.
Third, the IRS is launching a campaign to alert consumers of a new tax benefit for auto purchases made between February 16th and the end of this year — if you buy a car anytime this year, you may be able to deduct the cost of any sales and excise taxes. And this provision could save families hundreds of dollars and lead to as many as 100,000 new car sales.
Finally, several members of Congress have proposed an even more ambitious incentive program to increase car sales while modernizing our auto fleet. And such fleet modernization programs, which provide a generous credit to consumers who turn in old, less fuel-efficient cars and purchase cleaner cars, have been successful in boosting auto sales in a number of European countries. I want to work with Congress to identify parts of the Recovery Act that could be trimmed to fund such a program, and make it retroactive starting today.
Now, let there be no doubt, it will take an unprecedented effort on all our parts — from the halls of Congress to the boardroom, from the union hall to the factory floor — to see the auto industry through these difficult times. And I want every American to know that the path I’m laying out today is our best chance to make sure that the cars of the future are built where they’ve always been built — in Detroit and across the Midwest — to make America’s auto industry in the 21st century what it was in the 20th century — unsurpassed around the world. The path has been chosen after consulting with other governments that are facing this crisis. We’ve worked closely with the government of Canada on GM and Chrysler, as both those companies have extensive operations there. The Canadian government has indicated its support for our approach and will be announcing their specific commitments later today.
While the steps I’m taking will have an impact on all Americans, some of our fellow citizens will be affected more than others. So I’d like to speak directly to all those men and women who work in the auto industry or live in countless communities that depend on it. Many of you have been going through tough times for longer than you care to remember. And I won’t pretend that the tough times are over. I can’t promise you there isn’t more difficulty to come.
But what I can promise you is this: I will fight for you. You’re the reason I’m here today. I got my start fighting for working families in the shadows of a shuttered steel plant. I wake up every single day asking myself what can I do to give you and working people all across this country a fair shot at the American Dream.
When a community is struck by a natural disaster, the nation responds to put it back on its feet. While the storm that has hit our auto towns is not a tornado or a hurricane, the damage is clear, and we must likewise respond. And that’s why today I’m designating a new Director of Recovery for Auto Communities and Workers to cut through the red tape and ensure that the full resources of our federal government are leveraged to assist the workers, communities, and regions that rely on our auto industry. Edward Montgomery, a former Deputy Labor Secretary, has agreed to serve in this role.
And together with Labor Secretary Solis and my Auto Task Force, Ed will help provide support to auto workers and their families, and open up opportunity to manufacturing communities in Michigan and Ohio and Indiana and every other state that relies on the auto industry.
They will have a strong advocate in Ed. He will direct a comprehensive effort that will help lift up the hardest-hit areas by using the unprecedented levels of funding available in our Recovery Act and throughout our government to create new manufacturing jobs and new businesses where they’re needed most — in your communities. And he will also lead an effort to identify new initiatives we may need to help support your communities going forward.
These efforts, as essential as they are, are not going to make everything better overnight. There are jobs that won’t be saved. There are plants that may not reopen. There’s little I can say that can subdue the anger or ease the frustration of all whose livelihoods hang in the balance because of failures that weren’t theirs.
But there’s something I want everybody to remember. Remember that it is precisely in times like these — in moments of trial and moments of hardship — that Americans rediscover the ingenuity and resilience that makes us who we are; that made the auto industry what it once was and what it will be again; that sent those first mass-produced cars rolling off the assembly lines; that built an arsenal of democracy that propelled America to victory in the Second World War; and that powered our economic prowess in the first American century.
Because I know that if we can tap into that same ingenuity and resilience right now, if we can carry one another through this difficult time and do what must be done, then we will look back and say that this was the moment when the American auto industry shed its old ways, marched into the future, remade itself, and once more became an engine of opportunity and prosperity not only in Detroit, not only in our Midwest, but all across America.
I’m confident we can make that happen, but we’ve got a lot of work to do. Thank you. Thank you, everybody.
For Immediate Release
April 30, 2009
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON THE AUTO INDUSTRY
12:08 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Hey, guys. I know you haven’t seen enough of me lately, so — (laughter.)
One month ago, I spoke about some of the problems that have led to the crisis in the auto industry, and about what would be required to ensure that General Motors and Chrysler emerged from their current troubles stronger and more competitive. My team will continue working with General Motors as they strengthen their business plan and move towards restructuring that’s consistent with the principles that I’ve laid out.
And today, after consulting with my Auto Task Force, I can report that the necessary steps have been taken to give one of America’s most storied automakers, Chrysler, a new lease on life.
This is a company that has a particular claim on our American identity. It’s a company founded in the early years of the American automobile industry; a company that helped make the 20th century an American Century; and that came to embody, along with the two other members of the Big Three, the ingenuity, the industriousness, and the indomitable spirit of the American people.
Chrysler has not only been an icon of America’s auto industry and a source of pride for generations of American workers; it’s been responsible for helping build our middle class, giving countless Americans the chance to provide for their families, sending their kids to college, saving for a secure retirement. It’s what hundreds of thousands of autoworkers and suppliers and dealers and their families rely on to pay their bills in communities across our industrial Midwest and across our country.
It’s been a pillar of our industrial economy, but, frankly, a pillar that’s been weakened by papering over tough problems and avoiding hard choices. For too long, Chrysler moved too slowly to adapt to the future, designing and building cars that were less popular, less reliable, and less fuel-efficient than foreign competitors. That’s part of what has brought us to a point where they sought taxpayer assistance.
But as I’ve said from the start, we simply cannot keep this company, or any company, afloat on an endless supply of tax dollars. My job, as President, is to ensure that if tax dollars are being put on the line, they are being invested in a real fix that will make Chrysler more competitive.
That’s why I rejected the original restructuring plan that Chrysler offered last month. It was clear that if we put tax dollars in that plan, it would be a bad deal for American taxpayers and would not put the company on a viable path. But it’s also clear that if Chrysler was able to form a partnership with the international car company Fiat, there was a chance Chrysler could have a bright future.
After consulting with my Auto Task Force, industry experts, and financial advisors, I decided to give Chrysler and Fiat 30 days to reach an agreement. And the standard I set was high — I challenged them to design a plan that would protect American jobs, American taxpayers, and the future of a great American car company. But over the past month, seemingly insurmountable obstacles have been overcome, and Chrysler’s most important stakeholders — from the United Auto Workers to Chrysler’s largest lenders, from its own — from its former owners to its suppliers — have agreed to make major sacrifices.
So, today, I am pleased to announce that Chrysler and Fiat have formed a partnership that has a strong chance of success. It’s a partnership that will save more than 30,000 jobs at Chrysler, and tens of thousands of jobs at suppliers, dealers and other businesses that rely on this company.
It’s a partnership that the federal government will support by making additional loans that are consistent with what I outlined last month. As part of their agreement, every dime of new taxpayer money will be repaid before Fiat can take a majority ownership stake in Chrysler. In addition, considering Chrysler’s extensive operations in Canada, the government of Canada is also committing resources to ensure that Chrysler has a chance to succeed, and we’re working closely with them.
It’s a partnership that will give Chrysler a chance not only to survive, but to thrive in a global auto industry. Fiat has demonstrated that it can build the clean, fuel-efficient cars that are the future of the industry, and as part of this agreement, Fiat has already agreed to transfer billions of dollars in cutting-edge technology to Chrysler to help them do the same. Fiat is also committed to working with Chrysler to build new fuel-efficient cars and engines right here in America.
Now, this partnership was only possible because of unprecedented sacrifices on the part of Chrysler’s stakeholders, who are willing to give something up so that this company — and all of the men and women whose livelihoods depend on it — might see a better day. Chrysler’s management, and in particular, its CEO, Robert Nardelli, have played a positive and constructive role throughout this process. The United Auto Workers, who had already made painful concessions, agreed to further cuts in wages and benefits; cuts that will help Chrysler survive, making it possible for so many workers to keep their jobs and about 170,000 retirees and their families to keep their health care.
Several major financial institutions, led by J.P. Morgan, agreed to reduce their debt to less than one-third of its face value to help free Chrysler from its crushing obligations. The German automaker, Daimler, agreed to give up its stake in Chrysler and contribute to the company’s pension plan, further easing Chrysler’s financial burden. And countless Americans across our country will be making major sacrifices, as well, as a result of plans to consolidate dealers, brands, and product lines.
While many stakeholders made sacrifices and worked constructively, I have to tell you some did not. In particular, a group of investment firms and hedge funds decided to hold out for the prospect of an unjustified taxpayer-funded bailout. They were hoping that everybody else would make sacrifices, and they would have to make none. Some demanded twice the return that other lenders were getting. I don’t stand with them. I stand with Chrysler’s employees and their families and communities. I stand with Chrysler’s management, its dealers, and its suppliers. I stand with the millions of Americans who own and want to buy Chrysler cars. I don’t stand with those who held out when everybody else is making sacrifices. And that’s why I’m supporting Chrysler’s plans to use our bankruptcy laws to clear away its remaining obligations so the company can get back on its feet and onto a path of success.
No one should be confused about what a bankruptcy process means. This is not a sign of weakness, but rather one more step on a clearly charted path to Chrysler’s revival. Because of the fact that the UAW and many of the banks, the biggest stakeholders in this whole process have already aligned, have already agreed, this process will be quick. It will be efficient. It’s designed to deal with those last few holdouts, and it will be controlled. It will not disrupt the lives of the people who work at Chrysler or live in communities that depend on it. And it will not affect the ability of American consumers to buy a Chrysler, or to get it serviced and repaired. It’s a process that has the full support of Chrysler’s key stakeholders and the full backing of the United States government. And I have every confidence that Chrysler will emerge from this process stronger and more competitive.
I know that there are some who will insist that bankruptcy, even for these limited purposes, is a step that should not have been taken. But it was unsustainable to let enormous liabilities remain on Chrysler’s books, and it was unacceptable to let a small group of speculators endanger Chrysler’s future by refusing to sacrifice like everyone else. So I recognize that the path we’re taking is hard. But as is often the case, the hard path is the right one.
The path we’re taking also involves steps to shore up financing, because we cannot have viable car companies without strong car financing companies. It’s now clear that Chrysler Financial — the institution that finances Chrysler cars and dealers — would on its own require an unacceptably large stream of taxpayer money to remain viable — and that’s something I refuse to provide. And that is why, as part of this agreement, GMAC, an independent bank holding company that finances General Motors, has agreed to finance new Chrysler sales. We will be providing additional capital to GMAC to help unlock our frozen credit markets and free up lending so that consumers can get auto loans and dealers can finance their inventories; a measure that will help stabilize not only our auto market, but the broader economy, as well. And tomorrow, the Small Business Administration will be announcing it is expanding eligibility for some loans to include more suppliers and dealers, including RV dealers.
So these are some of the steps that we’re taking to make it easier for Americans to buy a car. If you are considering buying a car, I hope it will be an American car. I want to remind you that if you decide to buy a Chrysler, your warrantee will be safe — because it is backed by the United States government. And to further boost demand for autos, we are working to accelerate the purchase of a federal fleet, and we’re also working with Congress on fleet modernization legislation that can provide a credit to consumers who turn in old cars and purchase cleaner, more fuel-efficient cars.
As pleased as I am about today’s announcement and about the opportunity Chrysler has to remake itself, we know that far too many Americans in far too many communities are still struggling, as a result of layoffs not only at plants that produce cars, but at the businesses that produce the parts that go into them and at the dealers that sell and repair them. And that’s why, as I discussed the last time we gathered here to talk about autos, I’ve named Ed Montgomery to be the Director of Recovery for Auto Communities and Workers. Ed will be traveling to Michigan next week with representatives from all the key government agencies represented here, reaching out to our hardest-hit areas, cutting through red tape, ensuring that the full resources of the federal government are getting to the workers, the families, and communities that need it the most.
Now, these are challenging times for America’s auto industry and for the American people. But I am confident that if we as a nation can act with the same sense of shared sacrifice and shared purpose that’s been shown by so many of Chrysler’s stakeholders, if we can embrace the idea that we’re all in it together — from the union hall to the boardroom to the halls of Congress — then we will succeed not only with Chrysler, we will not only see our American auto industry rise again, but we will rebuild our entire economy and make the 21st century another American Century.
We have made great progress. We can make great American cars. Chrysler and GM are going to come back. And I am very confident that we’re going to be able to make once again the U.S. auto industry the best auto industry in the world.
And I want to thank my entire auto team who worked so diligently on what I consider to be a much better outcome than it looked like we were going to see 30 days ago.
Thank you very much, everybody.
General Motors Restructuring
For Immediate Release
June 1, 2009
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON GENERAL MOTORS RESTRUCTURING
11:51 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. Just over two months ago, I spoke with you in this same spot about the challenges facing our auto industry, and I laid out what needed to be done to save two of America’s most storied automakers — General Motors and Chrysler. These companies were facing a crisis decades in the making, and having relied on loans from the previous administration, were asking for more.
From the beginning, I made it clear that I would not put any more tax dollars on the line if it meant perpetuating the bad business decisions that had led these companies to seek help in the first place. I refused to let these companies become permanent wards of the state, kept afloat on an endless supply of taxpayer money. In other words, I refused to kick the can down the road.
But I also recognized the importance of a viable auto industry to the well-being of families and communities across our industrial Midwest and across the United States. In the midst of a deep recession and financial crisis, the collapse of these companies would have been devastating for countless Americans, and done enormous damage to our economy — beyond the auto industry. It was also clear that if GM and Chrysler remade and retooled themselves for the 21st century, it would be good for American workers, good for American manufacturing, and good for America’s economy.
I decided, then, that if GM and Chrysler and their stakeholders were willing to sacrifice for their companies’ survival and success; if they were willing to take the difficult, but necessary steps to restructure, and make themselves stronger, leaner, and more competitive, then the United States government would stand behind them.
The original restructuring plans submitted by GM and Chrysler earlier this year did not call for the sweeping changes these companies needed to survive — and I couldn’t in good conscience proceed on that basis. So we gave them a chance to develop a stronger plan that would put them on a path toward long-term viability. The 60 days GM had to submit its revised plans have now elapsed, and I want to say a few words about where we are and what steps will be taken going forward. But before I do, I want to give you an update on where things stand with Chrysler.
When my administration took office and began going over Chrysler’s books, the future of this great American car company was uncertain. In fact, it was not clear whether it had any future at all. But after consulting with my Auto Task Force, industry experts, and financial advisors, and after asking many tough questions, I became convinced that if Chrysler were willing to undergo a restructuring, and if it were able to form a partnership with a viable global car company, then Chrysler could get a new lease on life.
Well, that more promising scenario has now come to pass. Today, after taking a number of painful steps, and moving through a quick, efficient, and fair bankruptcy process, a new, stronger Chrysler is poised to complete its alliance with Fiat. Just 31 days after Chrysler’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, a court has approved the Chrysler-Fiat alliance, paving the way for a new Chrysler to emerge from bankruptcy in the next few days.
What happens next is in the hands of their executives, managers, and workers — as it is for any private company. But what the completion of this alliance means is that tens of thousands of jobs that would have been lost if Chrysler had liquidated will now be saved, and that consumers have no reason at all to worry about a restructuring — even one as painful as what Chrysler underwent.
And keep in mind — many experts said that a quick, surgical bankruptcy was impossible. They were wrong. Others predicted that Chrysler’s decision to enter bankruptcy would lead to an immediate collapse in consumer confidence that would send car sales over a cliff. They were wrong, as well. In fact, Chrysler sold more cars in May than it did in April, in part because consumers were comforted by our extraordinary commitment to stand behind a quick bankruptcy process. All in all, it’s a dramatic — an outcome dramatically better than what appeared likely when this process began.
Now the situation we found at General Motors was very different from what we found at Chrysler — largely because GM is a different kind of company. It is much larger and much more complex, with operations all over the globe. In this context, GM’s management team — including its new CEO, Fritz Henderson, its interim chairman, Kent Kresa, and all of their colleagues — have worked — has worked tirelessly to produce a plan that meets the strict standards I laid out at the beginning: to streamline GM’s brands, clean up GM’s balance sheet, and make it possible for GM to compete and succeed.
Working with my Auto Task Force, GM and its stakeholders have produced a viable, achievable plan that will give this iconic American company a chance to rise again. It’s a plan tailored to the realities of today’s auto market; a plan that positions GM to move toward profitability, even if it takes longer than expected for our economy to fully recover; and it’s a plan that builds on GM’s recent progress in making better cars. As this plan takes effect, GM will start building a larger share of its cars here at home, including fuel-efficient cars. In fact, if all goes according to plan, the share of GM cars sold in the United States that are made here will actually grow for the first time in three decades.
Now, any time a business as large as General Motors goes through a restructuring, it is extremely difficult to find common ground among all of the company’s stakeholders. But while the deal that has been worked out is tough, it is also fair.
It will require the United Auto Workers to make further cuts in compensation and retiree health care benefits — painful sacrifices on top of all that they have already done.
It will require GM shareholders to give up the remaining value of their shares — just as they would have had to do in any private restructuring of this kind.
And it will also provide unsecured bondholders with an equitable outcome — an outcome that will let them recover more than the current value of their claims, and substantially more than they would have recovered if the government had not intervened and GM had liquidated. That’s why a majority of GM’s bondholders already support this deal.
Throughout this process, I wanted to ensure that none of GM’s stakeholders receives special treatment because of our government’s involvement. That’s why I instructed my Auto Task Force to treat all of GM’s stakeholders fairly and to ensure that this restructuring was carried out in a way that was consistent with past precedent — and it was.
What we have, then, is a credible plan that is full of promise. But GM can’t put this plan into effect on its own. Executing this plan will require a substantial amount of money that only a government can provide. Considering GM’s extensive operations within their borders, the governments of Canada and Ontario have agreed to do their part with an investment in GM’s future, and I want to thank them for doing so. I also want to thank the government of Germany for working diligently to reach a Memorandum of Understanding on the sale of a major stake in GM’s European Division and for providing interim funding that will make it possible for that transaction to be finalized.
But of course GM is an American company with tens of thousands of employees in this country, and responsibility for its future ultimately rests with us. That’s why our government will be making a significant additional investment of about $30 billion in GM — an investment that will entitle American taxpayers to ownership of about 60 percent of the new GM.
Now, let me talk about this. I recognize that this may give some Americans pause. So let me explain as clearly as possible why we are making this investment. We inherited a financial crisis unlike any that we’ve seen in our time. This crisis crippled private capital markets and forced us to take steps in our financial system — and with our auto companies — that we would not have otherwise even considered. These steps have put our government in the unwelcome position of owning large stakes in private companies for the simple and compelling reason that their survival and the success of our overall economy depend on it.
Understand we’re making these investments not because I want to spend the American people’s tax dollars, but because I want to protect them. Instead of taking so much stock in GM, we could have simply offered the company more loans. But for years, GM has been buried under an unsustainable mountain of debt. And piling an irresponsibly large debt on top of the new GM would mean simply repeating the mistakes of the past. So we are acting as reluctant shareholders — because that is the only way to help GM succeed.
What we are not doing — what I have no interest in doing — is running GM. GM will be run by a private board of directors and management team with a track record in American manufacturing that reflects a commitment to innovation and quality. They — and not the government — will call the shots and make the decisions about how to turn this company around. The federal government will refrain from exercising its rights as a shareholder in all but the most fundamental corporate decisions. When a difficult decision has to be made on matters like where to open a new plant or what type of new car to make, the new GM, not the United States government, will make that decision.
In short, our goal is to get GM back on its feet, take a hands-off approach, and get out quickly.
Exiting a restructuring of this scale, however, requires not only new investment. It also requires giving GM a chance to start anew by clearing away the massive past debts that are weighing the company down. And that’s why earlier today, GM did what Chrysler has successfully done and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy with the support of its key stakeholders and the United States government.
In all likelihood, this process will take more time for GM than it did for Chrysler because GM is a bigger, more complex company. But Chrysler’s extraordinary success reaffirms my confidence that GM will emerge from its bankruptcy process quickly, and as a stronger and more competitive company. And I want to remind everyone that if you are considering buying a GM car during this period of restructuring, your warrantees will be safe and government-backed.
So I’m confident that the steps I’m announcing today will mark the end of an old GM, and the beginning of a new GM; a new GM that can produce the high-quality, safe, and fuel-efficient cars of tomorrow; that can lead America towards an energy independent future; and that is once more a symbol of America’s success.
But I want to be honest with you. Building a leaner GM will come at a cost. It will take a painful toll on many Americans who have relied on General Motors throughout the generations. So I want to say a word directly to all the men and women watching today, wondering what all of this will mean as far as their own lives are concerned.
I know you’ve already seen more than your fair share of hard times. We saw 400,000 jobs lost in the auto industry in the year before this restructuring even began. I will not pretend the hard times are over. Difficult days lie ahead. More jobs will be lost. More plants will close. More dealerships will shut their doors, and so will many parts suppliers.
But I want you to know that what you’re doing is making a sacrifice for the next generation — a sacrifice you may not have chose to make, but a sacrifice you were nevertheless called to make so that your children and all of our children can grow up in an America that still makes things; that still builds cars; that still strives for a better future.
As our autoworkers and auto communities pass through these difficult times, we, as a nation, must do our part. That’s why, in March, I appointed Ed Montgomery Director of Recovery for Auto Communities and Workers. That’s why two weeks ago Ed announced a green jobs training program for autoworkers in hard-hit communities. And that’s why last week Ed and Karen Mills, my Small Business Administration chief, traveled to Indiana to announce a new plan to provide loans to auto, RV, and boat dealers to help finance floor plans. That’s why we are accelerating the purchase of a federal fleet of cars to jumpstart demand and give the industry a boost at a time when it needs one. And that’s why I’m calling on Congress to pass fleet modernization legislation that can provide a credit to consumers who turn in old cars and purchase cleaner, more fuel-efficient cars. These are important steps on the long road to overcoming a problem that didn’t happen overnight and will not be solved overnight.
I recognize that today’s news carries a particular importance because it’s not just any company we’re talking about — it’s GM. It’s a company that’s not only been a source of income, but a source of pride for generations of autoworkers and generations of Americans. But while the GM of the future will be different from the GM of the past, I am absolutely confident that if well managed, a new GM will emerge that can provide a new generation of Americans with a chance to live out their dreams, that can out-compete automakers around the world, and that can once again be an integral part of America’s economic future. And when that happens, we can truly say that what is good for General Motors and all who work there is good for the United States of America.
Thank you, everybody.