No formal auto panel announcement pending: White House

Reuters

Posted at Feb 17 2009 08:41 AM | Updated as of Feb 17 2009 04:41 PM

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama will not formally announce his new auto task force on Monday, a White House aid said, clarifying remarks from a spokesman earlier.

Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters on board Air Force One on Monday he thought a formal announcement about the strategy would be released in a written statement later in the day.

But a White House aide said no further notices were planned at this time and played down any suggestions of a long roll-out of the strategy.

Obama has decided to launch a government task force for restructuring the struggling US auto industry instead of naming a "car czar" with sweeping powers.

He is appointing Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner as his "designee" for overseeing auto bailout loans and as co-head of the new high-level panel together with White House economic adviser Lawrence Summers, a senior administration official said on Sunday.

Asked on Monday why Obama had rejected the idea of a car czar, Gibbs said: "The model that's been set up with Secretary Geithner and Dr. Summers is one that will help coordinate throughout the federal government."

He declined to answer questions about whether Obama had considered any candidates for car czar before deciding on a broad team approach to tackle the auto crisis.

US car giants General Motors Corp and Chrysler LLC are required to submit new turnaround plans by Tuesday showing how they can be made viable after receiving $13.4 billion in emergency aid in the final weeks of the Bush administration.

"We are anxious to see the plans that will be offered by the auto companies," Gibbs said.

"It is extremely important to have a strong and viable auto industry. Obviously, that is likely to require some restructuring to ensure its viability, and we think some of that will be in those plans," he said.

Gibbs described Ron Bloom, a restructuring expert who has advised labor unions and will serve as a senior adviser on the auto crisis, as having "vast credibility" on corporate restructuring and said Bloom would provide a big boost to the task force.