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Detroit will be back, Schwarzenegger tells SAE conference

Tue, 21 Apr 2009

Borrowing his most famous movie line, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger stepped into the heart of the domestic car industry today, declaring that the Detroit automakers will recover from the economic crisis.

"Yes, they're wiped out. Yes, they're down. There are a lot of uncertainties, but there is one thing that is certain," he said. "They're going to be back. The car industry is saying, 'I'll be back.' "

Speaking at the opening session of the SAE World Congress, Schwarzenegger touted his state's green initiatives and said the nation should develop a single, nationwide greenhouse gas emissions standard, using California's stringent policies as a guide.

California is building a hydrogen economy, but Schwarzenegger said the market should be allowed to choose which green technology is best to cut emissions and fight global warming--whether it is hybrids, electrics or biofuels.

Schwarzenegger said Detroit is moving too slowly when it comes to building zero-emissions vehicles. He told the standing-room-only crowd, "It's easy to stay with the status quo and not venture out too far and to be innovative."

Schwarzenegger said that if the Detroit automakers commit to green technology, they will become more competitive globally.

But the governor said the lack of a federal energy policy also has slowed innovation.

"I think if the federal government starts setting standards and starts having tax incentives and saying here's the direction that we go, I think that the car manufacturers will move much faster."

Schwarzenegger said he favors giving aid to the Detroit automakers because the government helped create the problem by not establishing and sticking with a policy.

About 20,000 engineers are expected to attend the annual SAE World Congress, which runs through Thursday.

Schwarzenegger, who owns 12 vehicles, told the crowd he is a big fan of the cars produced by General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC. He said that after the automakers settle their affairs with the government, he would be willing to tape a commercial promoting Detroit vehicles and manufacturers.

Said Schwarzenegger: "I want to help this industry to get back on its feet as soon as possible, and I want to do my share."

But he acknowledged that he hasn't always been well-received in the Motor City.

Said Schwarzenegger: "I think there were billboards in Michigan saying, 'Arnold to Michigan: Drop Dead.' Of course, it's not something I said. What I basically said: 'Michigan, get off your butt and go and start producing cars that really are cars of the future.' "

By Leslie J. Allen- Automotive News