WARREN, Mich. | Sen. John McCain on Friday told auto workers to have faith that alternative technology vehicles will re-energize their sagging industry and help reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil.
“I believe that this new technology - it’s more than an automobile - will create hundreds and thousands of jobs,” the Republicans’ presumptive presidential nominee said at a town-hall meeting with about 500 General Motors Corp. employees. “This breakthrough has every chance of success.”
Mr. McCain toured a facility where the struggling automaker is designing a new battery-powered hybrid vehicle, and spoke to employees while flanked by several models of GM’s emerging fuel-efficient cars and trucks.
Mr. McCain’s upbeat remarks were welcome at GM, which has been hit hard financially and has offered employee buyouts after posting a record $38.7 billion loss in 2007, the largest in automaker history.
The company continued its spiral this year, with losses of $3.25 billion in the first quarter. Earlier this week, GM announced another series of layoffs and other cutbacks as its stock dipped into the $9 range, its lowest level in 50 years.
Michigan went to Democrats Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004, but Mr. McCain believes the state could be in play this year. He trails Democratic opponent Sen. Barack Obama by about eight percentage points in recent opinion polls, but has deployed Mitt Romney, son of a former Michigan governor, to the state to try to boost his standing.
Democrats said during his time in the Senate Mr. McCain has voted against increasing fuel efficiency standards and has supported other policies the Democratic National Committee said result in jobs moving overseas.
The DNC also pointed to Mr. McCain’s votes against worker re-training programs as a problem in a state like Michigan, where manufacturing jobs have fled.
Making his second visit in a month to a Detroit-area auto facility, Mr. McCain met with GM Chairman and Chief Executive Officer G. Richard Wagoner Jr. and other executives during his tour Friday morning. He has said that while he does not favor a bailout of the “Big 3” automakers, he is committed to seeing U.S. automakers succeed with improved technology.
He said a boost should come from his plan to offer a tax credit of up to $5,000 to encourage consumers to buy alternative energy vehicles like GM’s new Volt.
“Part of the future economic success of America is going to be based on this green technology,” he said, later adding that he was confident that the success of vehicles like the Volt and others “will be able to help restore the economy of a state that is hurting badly.”
Chatting with workers gathered for a morning town-hall meeting, Mr. McCain said he is a federalist and supports the rights of states to set fuel standards. He said auto industry executives and the nation’s governors should foster a relationship to handle the issue.
After years of surviving on higher profit margins from SUVs and trucks, GM and its Detroit counterparts Ford and Chrysler have been hurt by recent consumer demand for smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles.
Mr. McCain put part of the blame for the industry’s woes on its business practices.
“You can’t compete with other auto manufacturers when you lay someone off and then pay them a full salary for the rest of their life,” he said of union bargaining that some believe has put U.S. automakers far behind their foreign counterparts.View Entire Story
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