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Automakers: Stay away Obama

2012-08-30 09:43

General Motors and Chrysler, US automakers that received billions of dollars in government help to stay afloat during the recession, will not allow presidential candidates to visit their factories.

US president Barack Obama often touts the financial health of GM and Chrysler and has appeared at both companies' plants frequently in recent years.

The federal government still owns 26% of GM's shares but Obama cannot visit a GM plant before the November 6 election.

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GM became a new company in 2009 after the automaker went into bankruptcy protection and re-emerged after a R415-billion bail-out from the US Treasury but a GM spokesperson said the automaker's policy was not to allow campaign stops for presidential candidates. She said: "It pulls us off-focus and the reality is we need to stay focused. The company is doing great. We've had 10 consecutive profitable quarters and we want to stay profitable."

The Obama campaign has shown that it will visit areas with a large number of auto workers who overwhelmingly supported the 2009 auto bail-out begun under former president George Bush and carried out by Obama.

The Obama campaign announced that vice-president Joe Biden would travel to Lordstown, Ohio for a campaign event. Lordstown is the site of a large GM plant, which assembles the Cruze sedan. Obama had visited the plant as US president.

Chrysler, which has paid off its government loans, has decided not to allow Obama or Mitt Romney at its plants: "Chrysler will not host campaign events inside its facilities. The company is focused on meeting production demands."

Chrysler, during the 2008 campaign, was owned by private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management. It emerged from bankruptcy in 2009 part-owned and managed by Italy's Fiat, now its majority shareholder.

Ford, which borrowed heavily but did not need federal aid, will also not allow presidential campaign visits. "We've a long-standing policy of not allowing political campaigning at our manufacturing or other facilities.

"We do allow current government officials to visit our plants at any time for educational purposes and we provide educational opportunities for candidates in a non-partisan manner so they can learn more about auto manufacturing. As a highly-regulated, complex industry, it is important that government officials understand our business as they consider public policy."

Reuters