Romney Prescribes Tough Love for Detroit

"That's what I said then; that's what I'm saying now," Romney said Friday.

Romney said he does see a major role for Washington in helping Detroit -- just not, he said, in writing a "blank check."

He expressed general support for congressional efforts to force automakers to prove that they have a long-term plan to restore themselves to profitability.

"My view is that government will be a partner in this effort, but I want government supporting an industry that has a bright future," Romney said.

Romney said bankruptcy or a similar legal remedy, as managed by the federal government, is probably the best option to help the industry restructure and to reopen union pacts that have proven onerous.

Michigan's Lifeline, the Auto Industry

"This is an opportunity for the auto industry to do some needed reorganization, restructuring, to become competitive," he said. "You can't help but notice that Hyundai, Nissan, Toyota -- they are able to open manufacturing plants in the United States and grow and gain market share. Our guys are losing market share."

Responding to Romney's op-ed, a General Motors executive wrote Friday that the former governor doesn't fully grasp the problems facing the industry.

"Nearly every recommendation Mitt Romney makes for United States automakers has already been undertaken by current management in Detroit. Automakers have been investing in the future on the order of $12 billion a year in research and development -- second only to the semiconductor industry," wrote Steve Harris, GM's vice president of global communications.

"In addition, General Motors has cut $9 billion in structural costs since 2005 and last year reached a landmark agreement to transfer the delivery of health care to the United Auto Workers union," Harris added.

Patterson said that, as a candidate, Romney never suggested bankruptcy as a viable option for automakers. Leaders of the Big Three fear that such a move would scare away car buyers and kill a company entirely.

Patterson noted the irony in the fact that President-elect Barack Obama gave a tough speech to the Detroit Economic Club early in the campaign, where he talked of the need for automakers to modernize their practices, only to emerge now as a supporter of the auto bailout.

"Mitt was our favorite son. We enthusiastically supported him, and we embraced him," Patterson said. "Obama is now our champion. Politics is a strange business."

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