Toledo, OH…Hello, everyone. I’m speaking to you today from a Chrysler plant in Toledo, Ohio, where I just met with workers, including Jill. Jill was born and raised here. Her mother and step-father retired from this plant. And she met her husband here, and now they have two children of their own. This plant has not only been central to the economy of this town. It’s been a part of the lifeblood of this community.
The reason I came to Toledo was to congratulate Jill and her co-workers on the turnaround they helped bring about at Chrysler and throughout the auto industry. Today, each of the Big Three automakers – Chrysler, GM, and Ford – is turning a profit for the first time since 2004. Chrysler has repaid every dime and more of what it owes American taxpayers for their support during my presidency – and it repaid that money six years ahead of schedule. And this week, we reached a deal to sell our remaining stake. That means soon, Chrysler will be 100% in private hands.
Most importantly, all three American automakers are now adding shifts and creating jobs at the strongest rate since the 1990s. Chrysler has added a second shift at the Jefferson North plant in Detroit that I visited last year. GM is adding a third shift at its Hamtramck plant for the first time ever. And GM plans to hire back all of the workers they had to lay off during the recession.
That’s remarkable when you think about where we were just a couple of years ago. When I took office, we were facing the worst recession since the Great Depression – a recession that hit our auto industry particularly hard. In the year before I was President, this industry lost more than 400,000 jobs, and two great American companies, Chrysler and GM, stood on the brink of collapse.
Now, we had a few options. We could have done what a lot of folks in Washington thought we should do – nothing. But that would have made a bad recession worse and put a million people out of work. I refused to let that happen. So, I said, if GM and Chrysler were willing to take the difficult steps of restructuring and making themselves more competitive, the American people would stand by them – and we did.
But we decided to do more than rescue this industry from a crisis. We decided to help it retool for a new age, and that’s what we’re doing all across the country – we’re making sure America can out-build, out-innovate, and out-compete the rest of the world. That’s how we’ll build an economy where you can see your incomes and savings rise again, send your kids to college, and retire with dignity, security, and respect. That’s how we’ll make sure we keep that fundamental American promise – that if you work hard and act responsibly, you’ll be able to pass on a better life to your kids and grandkids.
Now, we’ve got a ways to go. Even though our economy has created more than two million private sector jobs over the past 15 months and continues to grow, we’re facing some tough headwinds. Lately, it’s high gas prices, the earthquake in Japan, and unease about the European fiscal situation. That will happen from time to time. There will be bumps on the road to recovery.
We know that. But we also know what’s happened here, at this Chrysler plant. We know that hardworking Americans like Jill helped turn this company and this industry around. That’s the American story. We’re a people who don’t give up – who do big things, who shape our own destiny. And I’m absolutely confident that if we hold on to that spirit, our best days are still ahead of us. Thanks for tuning in, and have a great weekend.