Obama discusses auto industry plans

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Scott Swan/Eyewitness News

Indianapolis - Eyewitness News was the only Indianapolis television station to speak with President Barack Obama on Monday. The interview followed Monday morning's announcement about the US auto industry.

"My entire objective is to make sure that we've got a strong, vibrant, US auto industry that can compete anywhere in the world," said Obama.

The president said that neither General Motors nor Chrysler has proposed sweeping enough changes to justify further large federal bailouts, and demanded "painful concessions" from creditors, unions and others as their price for survival. He gave them another 60 days to produce a restructuring plan.

Obama hinted that bankruptcy is a possibility to help either or both companies "restructure quickly and emerge stronger" - uttering the term that industry and union officials have warned repeatedly could lead to the collapse of an entire domestic industry. Eyewitness News asked the president about the likelihood of a controlled bankruptcy.

"I think the important thing to understand is that there are a bunch of different kinds of bankruptcy. And we are confident that GM can function as a stand-alone company and that if they had to go through a bankruptcy, it would be what's called a "quick rinse" bankruptcy, where they would essentially be dealing with very narrow aspects of their business but they would keep on making cars and they would ultimately emerge more successful than they were before - leaner and meaner. Chrysler is in a tougher situation. We don't believe they can stand alone as a company. That's why we're trying to work to see if they can partner with Fiat," he said.

Obama said his primary concern was with the employees.

"Ultimately the thing I care most about is workers. Folks who have day in, day out worked hard with great pride to make a good product and who are supporting families and communities all across the Midwest. I want to make sure they have the support that they need," he said.

Eyewitness News pointed out that many Indiana communities rely heavily on the auto industry.

"We have assigned somebody to direct assistance to auto communities to make sure that whether it's through the stimulus package, whether it's through a federally purchasing programs, whether it's coordinating worker re-training, that all the resources that the federal government has to brought to bear on these communities," he said.

Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN06) also commented on the bankruptcy question. "I think most Hoosiers know that the way for businesses to reorganize their debt, to restructure their business plan under the law is to go into the federal bankruptcy court and have the legal authority to do that."