Chicago - US President-elect Barack Obama offered embattled US automakers a promise and a warning on Friday, saying he hoped to create more autoworker jobs but only if carmakers do not squander the opportunity to reform.
After the outgoing administration of President George W. Bush offered $17.4 billion in emergency loans to Detroit's beleaguered "Big Three" car giants, Obama said he would work with both carmaker unions and management to rebuild the industry.
"My top priority in this administration is to create 2.5 million new jobs and I want some of those jobs to be in the auto industry," Obama told a news conference.
He declined to say what, if any, changes he would make to the auto rescue plan announced by the White House after he takes office on January 20, or whether he would entertain calls by the United Auto Workers union to remove what it called "unfair" conditions in the Bush bailout plan.
But he said his economic team would discuss with workers and management ways to ensure their collective survival, saying the chance to end bad management practices and reform the industry "must not be squandered".
"I do want to emphasise to the Big Three auto makers and their executives that that the American people's patience is running out," he said, adding that the auto executives must come up with a restructuring plan that is sustainable.
Obama said it was clear that any plan to put the car industry back on track would involve "painful steps."
"I just want to make sure that when we see a final restructuring package, that it's not just workers who are bearing the brunt of that restructuring," he added. "All shareholders are going to have to play a part in this process."