By Justin Sink - 01/16/14 12:05 PM EST
Vice President Biden on Thursday gave a colorful thank-you to the Ford Motor Company for not seeking a government bailout during the financial crisis.
"Thank you for saving our ass," Biden told Ford executive chairman Bill Ford Jr. while touring the Detroit Auto Show, according to a pool report.
Joking that he was like a "kid in a candy store," the vice president spent 30 minutes admiring vehicles at the annual event, and made time to hop in vehicles like the Ford Mustang and Chevy Corvette as he mingled with the crowd and talked to auto executives.
Before hitting the showroom floor, Biden told his fellow "car junkies" the Obama administration "won" its "bet on American ingenuity," predicting a resurgence in a manufacturing sector that has been battered in recent decades.
"This is going to be the American century in manufacturing — mark my words — not just in automobiles, but manufacturing coming back to America," Biden said.
"The truth is, we're not only back; we're back stronger. The American auto industry isn't just back, like Detroit's going to come back, but America's back, in part because you are," Biden said.
Biden's visit came at the first auto show since the government divested from General Motors after purchasing a large chunk of the company during the auto bailout.
He joked he was "a little sad" that he couldn't have invested personally in the automakers due to a campaign pledge.
"That's why I'm listed as the poorest guy in the Congress," Biden quipped.
The visit is also the first high-profile visit from administration officials since September, when Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, Attorney General Eric Holder and White House Economic Council Director Gene Sperling traveled to the city to announce nearly $320 million in new federal and private aid in the aftermath of the city's municipal bankruptcy.
The aid included money for housing rehabilitation and demolition, some $30 million targeted to fight crime and reduce the city's notoriously long emergency response times, and millions more to rehabilitate the city's transportation network.
Biden predicted the surging auto industry would help bring the city back.
"This is not only an important city but an iconic city. It represents the manufacturing might of the United States of America all through the 20th century," Biden said.
The vice president was briefly interrupted during his remarks by a protester yelling against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. Biden said he "welcomed his comments" but could not hear them before moving on with his remarks.