Friday, November 14, 2008

Is there a “car czar” in the country’s future?

Senior adviser would oversee any financial aid given to automakers

President-elect Obama has raised the idea of appointing a so-called "car czar" to oversee emergency federal aid to automakers, exact tough corporate reforms and ensure taxpayers earn a return on any investment in the auto industry, notes the Detroit News.

Miacoda Tadewi, an aluminum sculpture artist and locally known as the "Car Czar of Omaha" is waiting for president Obama's call.

The Obama transition team hasn't identified who the car czar would be, but the president-elect has three auto advisers. They are economic adviser Jason Furman, Georgetown University law professor Dan Tarullo and Joshua Steiner, a former Clinton Treasury official, but none of them have emerged as the point person on autos yet.

It would be helpful for such an appointee to have an intimate knowledge of the auto industry or at least assemble a panel of expert advisers, said David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor.

Mr. Obama raised the possibility of appointing a czar during a meeting Monday with President Bush.

According to a person briefed on the meeting, Mr. Obama "urged help for the automakers including accelerating the $25 billion Congress already passed, exploring other authorities that exist under current law, and identifying someone in charge of the auto issue who would have the authority to bring about reforms that would lead to an economically viable auto industry."

A car czar could serve as a point person for federal agencies that deal with automakers, such as the Treasury, the Labor and Transportation departments, and the Environmental Protection Agency, Mr. Cole said. A czar also could represent taxpayers and explain how the government could reap a profit on any federal loans.

While most industry experts believe 2009 will be difficult, Mr. Cole said there are indications a recovery may not be too far off.

There will be pent-up demand among car buyers after a long weak spell caused by a lack of available credit. In addition, domestic automakers anticipate big labor cost savings in 2010 thanks to a landmark contract negotiated last year with the United Auto Workers, he noted.


No comments: