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Posted on Mon, Jan 11, 2010 : 8:04 a.m.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood forced to defend bailout at 2010 Detroit auto show

By Nathan Bomey

In an early sign that the 2010 Detroit auto show will assume a political tint, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood this morning was forced to defend the federal government’s auto industry bailout.

“This industry would not see the bright future that it’s seeing today with the rollout of these new products if it had not been for the strong commitment of President Obama,” LaHood told reporters at an early press conference. “And the money is being paid back.”

LaHood’s press conference kicked off media previews at the North American International Auto Show at Cobo Hall.

Ray LaHood.JPG

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, speaking this morning at the 2010 Detroit auto show, defended the Obama Administration's auto bailout.

Nathan Bomey |

The Obama administration last year provided up to $65 billion in emergency loans to finance bankruptcies by General Motors and Chrysler.

The influence of politics on this year's show is not to be denied. In addition to LaHood, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer are visiting the show later today to meet with industry leaders and media.

LaHood said the Obama Administration had to support the auto industry with emergency funds because the industry is a “strong pillar of our economy.”

GM and Chrysler are likely to be scrutinized during the media days of the auto show today and Tuesday. 

Chrysler, for one, surprised industry observers by announcing in recent weeks that it has no new products to unveil at the Detroit auto show this year.

Chrysler’s new corporate parent, Italian automaker Fiat, is designing cars that Chrysler will sell in the U.S. - but the vehicles aren’t ready to show yet.

LaHood this morning argued that Chrysler is on the pathway to success.

“They’re on the cutting edge of developing the kind of products that I think people in this country and people in other countries will feel very favorable towards,” LaHood said.

Contact’s Nathan Bomey at (734) 623-2587 or You can also follow him on Twitter.