As soon as non-U.S.-based automakers such as Honda and Toyota learned that President Barack Obama would be attending the Washington Auto Show on Jan. 31 just two days before the date, they hurried to give him a good show. They sent in their vehicles with the highest fuel economy, giving in to what White House staff requested. In addition, auto executives were brought in from California.
Unfortunately, their efforts were in vain as Obama didn’t turn his attention to any of these cars built in the U.S. by foreign automakers. He was at the show for about 30 minutes and he spent it by having his picture taken with a Dodge Dart, a Ford Mustang Shelby GT500, a Chevrolet Silverado pick-up, a Jeep Grand Cherokee, a Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1, a Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid and a Chevrolet Malibu.
Meanwhile, the executives of foreign firms Honda, Kia Motors Corp., Mercedes-Benz and other automakers eagerly waited in a “bullpen” for questions that Obama may raise about their vehicles. Not one of them were put to the task, according to Michael Stanton, the CEO of the Association of Global Automakers. He said that its members were “terribly disappointed that the president refused to recognize the commitment that our members and others have made to the manufacturing base of the United States.” He pointed out that many of its members had exerted a lot of effort to meet the White House’s request.
Obama went to the show held at the Washington Convention Center just one day before Honda unveiled a $100 million expansion at an Ohio transmission plant that will create 150 jobs. This is part of the $500 million intended for upgrades in Ohio in the last 18 months. Stanton cited that the Association of Global Automakers’ members, including Honda, Kia and Toyota, have made an investment of over $43 billion and have more than 80,000 employees in the U.S.
The group is based in Washington. White House spokeswoman Sandra Abrevaya has yet to respond to these reports. Honda had wanted to show the president its FCX Clarity fuel-cell car, which was brought in from California. Honda’s investments in the U.S. amount to about $11.1 billion. Kia’s representative came in from California to maybe answer questions that Obama would have about the 2012 Optima hybrid.
A fuel-cell car was transported by Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz from New Jersey. Nancy McLernon, Organization for International Investment CEO, said that the White House told the non-U.S. automakers that the president wanted to see green cars. McLernon added that being snubbed as a group is “problematic.”