By Sam Youngman - 06/01/09 12:32 PM EDT
Speaking from the Grand Foyer of the White House, the president acknowledged that the plan, which will give the federal government about 60 percent ownership in the struggling company, "may give some Americans pause."
Obama warned that GM's rebirth will likely take longer because it is "a bigger, more complex company."
But Obama said he took the steps necessary, "steps that have put our government in the unwelcome position" of being owners of GM, because "their survival and our overall economy depend on them."
"We are acting as reluctant shareholders because that is the only way to help GM succeed," Obama said.
Even as Republicans blasted the president's plan that they say has created "Government Motors," the president defended the move, saying he has "no interest in running GM."
"They, and not the government, will call the shots and make the decisions about how to turn this company around," Obama said. "In short, our goal is to get GM back on its feet, take a hands-off approach and get out quickly."
Though the endgame for the administration is a smaller, more cost-effective auto company, the president acknowledged that "building a leaner GM will come at a cost."
He noted that "more jobs will be lost, more plants will close," but he said his administration is working to help those areas most hard-hit. He added that those who are losing their jobs are "making a sacrifice for the next generation."
"I will not pretend the hard times are over," Obama said. "Difficult times lay ahead."
The president said he has accelerated the purchase of a federal fleet to increase demand for American automakers, and he said the "New GM" will result in more cars being made domestically.
In lauding a New York judge's decision to clear the way for the Chrysler-Fiat merger, allowing Chrysler to emerge from bankruptcy "in the next few days," Obama took on his detractors.
Targeting his critics who said the plan set forth for Chrysler just more than a month ago would result in a complete collapse of the company, Obama said "they were wrong."
"All in all, it's an outcome dramatically better than what appeared likely when the situation began," he said.