Entering his last year in office, President Barack Obama is finally going to check out the Detroit auto show.
Late last Friday, White House spokesman Keith Maley told the Detroit Free Press that Obama will go to Detroit on Jan. 20, where he will, for the first time as president, take in the North American International Auto Show, which runs Jan. 11-24.
While lots of dignitaries and industry officials typically take in the show during its first week — several members of Michigan’s congressional delegation, for instance, visited on opening day, Obama is coming during the second week, typically reserved for the public.
It’s likely he’ll be greeted with open arms: Obama and his administration are widely credited with helping to save the domestic automobile industry with $80 billion in financing as it moved Chrysler and General Motors through structured bankruptcies in 2009.
As the Free Press reported, it’s hard to argue that the turnaround since then isn’t complete, with U.S. auto sales setting a record in 2015 and the Detroit Three each having banner years.
As usual, the White House didn’t release any details about the president’s trip, which typically comes much closer to the visit itself, but Maley’s statement made it sound like the chief executive may have more in mind than just seeing the auto show, saying the president was also coming “to experience firsthand the remarkable progress made by the city, its people and neighborhoods.”
Last week, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan praised the auto industry’s turnaround in recent years, which has been marked by record sales, and has said it has helped lower unemployment in the city.
In October, GM announced it was adding a second shift at its Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant and adding 1,200 workers there.
Meanwhile, Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert, who has been leading redevelopment efforts in downtown Detroit, also said this week that so many businesses and residents have been coming into the city that its central business district may soon be running out of room for new ones.
“We look forward to the president’s visit,” Duggan said.
The Obama administration agreed to prop up the automakers — provided they were steered through bankruptcy to restructure their operations — even though it was not popular nationwide.
Last week, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest opened up a daily briefing with members of the media with a lengthy recitation of the auto industry’s turnaround.
In Maley’s statement, he said the president will visit the auto show “to highlight the more than 640,000 new auto industry jobs created since the auto rescue and the record auto sales in the U.S. in 2015.”
The visit will be Obama’s 18th to Michigan since becoming president and his first since September, when he visited Warren.