Obama may name auto czar

President-elect Barack Obama has raised the idea of appointing a so-called "auto czar" to oversee emergency federal aid to automakers, exact tough corporate reforms and ensure taxpayers earn a return on any investment in the auto industry.

The Obama transition team hasn't identified who the car czar would be, but the president-elect has three auto advisers. They are economic adviser Jason Furman, Georgetown University law professor Dan Tarullo and Joshua Steiner, a former Clinton Treasury official, but none of them have emerged as the point person on autos yet. Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and former Michigan Congressman David Bonior also are advising Obama on the troubled auto industry.

It would be helpful, though not essential, for such an appointee to have an intimate knowledge of the auto industry or at least assemble a panel of expert advisers, said David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor.

"It can't be some ideologue or someone with an ax to grind or someone who read about the auto industry in a pamphlet two years ago," Cole said.

Obama raised the possibility of appointing a czar during a meeting Monday with President Bush.

According a person briefed on the meeting, Obama "urged help for the automakers including accelerating the $25 billion Congress already passed, exploring other authorities that exist under current law, and identifying someone in charge of the auto issue who would have the authority to bring about reforms that would lead to an economically viable auto industry."

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Detroit, said in an interview he supports the idea of Obama naming an auto czar or a manufacturing czar.

"The manufacturing czar that President Bush theoretically appointed was a phantom," Levin said. "Hopefully the Obama administration will really jump in with both feet to protect American manufacturing jobs." More at Detroit News

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