WARREN, Mich. Washington allies haven t always been easy to come by for the U.S. automakers, but Republican presidential candidate John McCain told General Motors Corp. employees Friday that reviving the struggling industry would be of utmost importance in his administration.
The key, integral, vital part of our ability to eliminate our dependence on foreign oil will be directly related to that sign over there, McCain told an invitation-only town hall meeting at the GM Technical Center in Warren, pointing to a sign for GM s first plug-in electric car, the Chevrolet Volt.
I wish you every success, and I want to help in every way, he said.
Organizers added seats and risers to accommodate at least 500 people in GM s Design Dome. The Macomb County technical center north of Detroit employs nearly 17,000 people and is where GM is designing the Volt.
The Arizona senator toured the facility with GM officials before the event. He came to talk about his incentives for next-generation vehicles and the need to move to new technology such as the Chevrolet Volt.
GM plans to have the Volt on the market by 2010.
McCain s GM visit comes the same week the company announced a combination of cuts, borrowing and asset sales that would raise $15 billion to weather the recent slump in U.S. auto sales and the rapid shift from trucks to cars.
Faced with high gas prices and a weak economy, GM s sales fell 16 percent for the first half of the year, with trucks off 21 percent and cars down nearly 9 percent. GM has lost billions of dollars during the last three years.
McCain said last week in Michigan that U.S. auto workers have the ingenuity and skills to move to new types of vehicles as sales of profitable but gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles plunge and predicted the Volt will create thousands and thousands of new jobs for Michigan.
GM spokesman Greg Martin welcomed McCain s decision to come to the Technical Center, noting that it s a good way for us to show what we re doing as far as advanced technology and a lot of our plans for strengthening our place in the market.
Martin added that the automaker has been pleased with the attention it has received from both McCain and his Democratic rival, Sen. Barack Obama.
Kathy Doher, a 36-year employee of GM, said she replied to a company invitation to attend the event because of her interest in such issues as the economy and the state of the auto industry. While undecided, she also was interested in attending a meeting with a presidential candidate.
With retirement in sight, it s not about her personal job security, but she said, I m obviously concerned about just turning the company around in North America.
We really do have some great products out there that can compete with the best, said Doher, an assistant to the vice president of North American engineering.