By Andrew Restuccia - 08/15/11 06:37 PM EDT
The country’s automakers should ditch their focus on SUVs and trucks in favor of smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles, President Obama said Monday.
“You can’t just make money on SUVs and trucks,” Obama said during a town hall forum in Cannon Falls, Minn. “There is a place for SUVs and trucks, but as gas prices keep on going up, you have got to understand the market. People are going to try to save money.”
“When I came into office they were talking about the liquidation of GM and Chrysler, and a lot of folks said you can’t help them, and it’s a waste of the government’s money to try and help them,” Obama said Monday. “But what I said was, we can’t afford to lose up to a million jobs in this country, particularly in the Midwest.”
Obama was speaking at the start of a three-day bus tour of the Midwest. He will visit Decorah, Iowa, later in the day.
The president said his administration “turned around” the U.S. auto industry and is calling on automakers to change the way they do business.
“They are gaining market share for the first time in years, but what we said was, ‘If we are going to help you, then you have also got to change your ways,’ ” he said.
The White House unveiled first-ever fuel efficiency rules for heavy-duty trucks last week. The standards come after the administration ratcheted up fuel economy standards for cars and light-duty trucks.
The administration negotiated the standards in a series of high-stakes closed-door meetings with industry. In the end, the White House won the endorsement of major automakers and truck companies.
Obama has touted the new standards as “the single most important step we’ve ever taken as a nation to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.”
Later Monday, Obama touted the administration’s efforts to boost electric vehicles and advanced battery technology.
“That is the kind of approach that we have to take: Using the private sector, understanding that ultimately the private sector is going to be creating jobs, but also understanding that government can be an effective partner in that process, and nowhere is that more true than in rural America.”