June 4, 2009 at 4:52 pm

Manny Lopez

Commentary: Obama won't let GM fail

When the dust settles on the reorganization rollercoaster here in Detroit, the nation and the world will go back to ignoring us.

But, for the past few days, we've been ground zero for reporters around the world wondering when the domestic auto industry will officially fold.

Anchors at the Al Jazeera English network in Washington, D.C., asked me Monday if General Motors Corp.'s bankruptcy spelled the end of America's auto industry. Can the United States sustain its manufacturing base and its future? They asked -- seemingly hoping for me to say that we're doomed and that manufacturing here was kaput.

KCBS radio hosts in San Francisco wanted to know the same thing and, like other interviews I've done the past couple of days, they also wanted to know what the mood in Detroit is these days.

Politics and economics

As I did for them, I'll spare you the "we're resilient people here in Michigan" pep talk and I won't parrot the nonsense coming from Lansing's elected officials who swear that we're rebuilding the state on unproven, um, I mean, alternative energy.

But, get this straight: GM won't liquidate.

President Barack Obama hasn't orchestrated this charade simply to see GM, and by virtue Detroit and one of his blue states, go the way of Oldsmobile.

Keeping GM alive is as much about politics as it is economics.

It is no coincidence that the judge overseeing the Chrysler bankruptcy case ruled late Sunday night that he'd approved the company's asset sale to a group headed by Fiat SpA rather than waiting until Monday as he said he'd planned. The script clearly said that the president was to announce GM's entrance into bankruptcy as Chrysler exited and no federal bankruptcy judge was going to stand in the way.

The end is not near

To be sure, the job losses, community devastation and restructuring of a vital U.S. industry are going to affect Michigan and the nation. That's what happens when you ignore the freight train headed your way as Detroit's automakers did with labor costs, products and myriad other business decisions.

But the end isn't near. And all the harrumphing being done now by members of Congress trying to score constituent points after the allotment of $50 billion shows the folly of it all. The time to stand in the way of these loans was long ago.

GM, when it drops Pontiac, Saturn, Hummer and Saab, will be a smaller company, but still formidable. Those brands accounted for 23,070 car and truck sales in May and even without them, GM remained ahead of Toyota Motor Corp. and Ford Motor Co. in May sales.

Clearly GM still counts, but what really plays in its favor is the vote it is getting from Obama, its true president and CEO.

mlopez@detnews.com">mlopez@detnews.com (313) 222-2536 Auto Editor Manny Lopez's column runs Thursday.