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Automakers to Obama, Romney: stay away

By Reuters 29 August 2012

General Motors Co and Chrysler Group LLC, U.S. automakers that received billions of dollars in government help to stay afloat during the recession, said they will not allow presidential candidates to make stops at their plants.

President Barack Obama often touts the financial health of both GM and Chrysler and has appeared at auto plants of both companies frequently in the past several years.

While the federal government still owns 26 percent of GM’s shares, Obama cannot go to a GM plant until after the Nov. 6 election, GM said.

GM’s policy has been not to allow campaign stops at its plants, said spokeswoman Heather Rosenker, since it became a new company in 2009 after the former GM went into bankruptcy protection and emerged after a $49.5 billion bailout from the U.S. Treasury.

GM does not want to be the focus of attention for the auto bailout in the presidential campaign.

“It pulls us off focus and the reality is we need to stay focused,” said Rosenker. “The company is doing great. We’ve had 10 consecutive profitable quarters and we want to stay profitable.”

While the companies have said no visits to our plants, the Obama campaign has shown that it will visit areas with a large number of auto workers who overwhelmingly supported the 2009 auto bailout begun under President George W. Bush and carried out by Obama.

The Obama campaign on Tuesday announced that Vice President Joe Biden will travel to Lordstown, Ohio for a campaign event on Friday. Lordstown is the site of a large GM plant, which makes the Cruze sedan.

Obama has visited the GM plant in Lordstown as president. But Biden will not appear at the plant on Friday. Instead, he will speak nearby in Lordstown, according to people who requested anonymity.

Chrysler, which has paid off its government loans, has also decided not to allow Obama or Romney at its plants.

“This fall, Chrysler will not host campaign events inside its facilities,” said the company in a statement. “The company is focused on meeting production demands.”

Chrysler during the 2008 campaign was owned by private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management. It emerged from bankruptcy in 2009 part-owned and managed by Italy’s Fiat SpA . Fiat is now Chrysler’s majority owner.

And Ford Motor Co, which borrowed heavily in the debt markets and did not need any bailout cash, also will not allow presidential campaign visits.

Obama, as president, has spoken at several GM and Chrysler plants, but that was before the campaign became a two-man race with Romney.

Obama spoke at a large Ford plant in Chicago in August 2010.

Obama and his 2008 Republican rival John McCain both spoke at GM plants during the campaign, but that was before the first bailout money went to GM and Chrysler under Bush.

“We have a long-standing policy of not allowing political campaigning at our manufacturing or other facilities,” said Ford in a statement.

“We do allow current government officials to visit our plants at any time for educational purposes, and we provide educational opportunities for candidates in a non-partisan manner so they can learn more about auto manufacturing. As a highly-regulated, complex industry, it is important that government officials understand our business as they consider public policy,” Ford said. DM

Photo: General Motors assembly workers work on an all new 2013 ATS Cadillac luxury vehicle at the Lansing Grand River Assembly Plant in Lansing, Michigan July 26, 2012. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook.

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