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Obama says U.S. auto industry 'growing strong' after bailout

By the CNN Wire Staff
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GM's 'Volt' jump-starting car industry?
  • NEW: President touts development of green technologies
  • Says 55,000 new jobs have been added by the U.S. auto industry
  • Obama defends government support for the companies as a good investment

Detroit, Michigan (CNN) -- President Barack Obama, speaking at auto plants here Friday, praised the recovery of the embattled U.S. auto industry and celebrated the tough choices he says made a comeback possible.

"Last year, many thought this industry would keep losing jobs, as it had for the better part of the past decade. Today, U.S. automakers have added more than 55,000 jobs since last June," said Obama, speaking at a Chrysler plant.

He said both Chrysler Group LLC and General Motors Corp. have rebounded from the depths of their government-brokered bankruptcies and are back on track to grow.

Later in the day, Obama toured and spoke at a GM plant, where he also made the case for why the federal government's investment in the auto industry was a wise move. At times sounding like a candidate on the campaign trial, he is working to build support for his economic policies with just a few months to go until midterm elections in November.

Video: Obama: Job growth must increase

In the 12 months before he took office, Obama said, the U.S. auto industry had lost hundreds of thousands of jobs and had seen its sales drop 40 percent. He cited estimates suggesting more than 1 million people would have lost their jobs if Chrysler and GM, two of the three big U.S. automakers, had been allowed to liquidate.

Ford Motor Co. was the only one of the "Big 3" automakers that did not take a government bailout.

At the GM plant, Obama also stressed the need to develop and manufacture green technologies that would cut the country's dependence on oil. He test drove the Chevrolet Volt, GM's electric car, which is expected to roll out later this year.

"Today, this industry is growing strong. It's creating new jobs. It's manufacturing the fuel-efficient cars and trucks that will carry us toward an energy independent future," Obama said.