Detroit’s automakers paid a visit to the White House on Monday, but the best thing they took home was a set of pretty pictures with Washington’s picturesque cherry blossoms serving as the backdrop.
The real backdrop of the meeting, however, was putting the best face on the chaos facing both Detroit and the Bush energy policies. Until recently, Bush’s hands-off attitude toward fuel economy had aggravated automakers, who pursued a meeting with Bush for years. But with lingering low poll numbers and gas prices heading back toward $3, it was time to make the token gestures Bush had avoided for nearly all of his six years in office in having CEOs from Detroit over for snacks.
When not fielding questions about Iraq, Bush has pressed a mild agenda for green machines, depending largely on growing new American-made fuels and egging Detroit to spend more on hybrids. Detroit has responded enthusiastically to the ethanol initiatives, not so hotly to the other suggestions made by the White House. And rightly so: hybrids lose money, and no amount of PR spin can sell enough gas-electrics to turn a profit, not even at Toyota.
The bottom line: Bush has other things on his mind. That much was obvious to Rick Wagoner: “Fair to say he is not necessarily advocating regulatory approaches but what kind of market-based approaches can we use,” Wagoner told reporters. “We didn't get a lot more detail than that, but that was the tone of the conversation.”
But Mrs. Taft’s cherry trees looked wonderful, didn’t they?
DETROIT MEETS WITH PRESIDENT BUSH, AGAIN—TheCarConnection.com