In a new report entitled "How the Great Recession Was Brought to an End," Zandi and fellow economist Alan Blinder wrote, "TARP money was also vital to ensuring an orderly restructuring of the auto industry at a time when its unraveling would have been a serious economic blow."
In addition, Moody's economists Sophia Koropeckyj and Michael Helmar said in a separate report that the country would have lost a half a million more jobs if the automakers had gone under.
In spite of the industry's job growth and the automakers' ongoing return to profitability, some members of Congress who opposed the bailouts still believe that the administration acted with a "heavy hand" in bailing out the automakers.
"I felt like the decision to step into the companies the way the government did was heavy-handed and inappropriate and I said so at the time," Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said in an interview with ABC News. "I think the restructuring that took place was right along the lines that I suggested. I just felt that the companies themselves should have done that."
Corker said no one can say with certainty what would have happened if the government had not bailed out the automakers, but he is nevertheless pleased that job growth is once again on the rise.
"I don't think we'll ever know what would have happened," Corker said, "but certainly as an American when I see people employed with good-paying jobs, am I happy? Yes. The government stepping in, telling a CEO to resign, changing the board. Those are things that I don't think Americans believe in. But did the restructuring help the companies? Absolutely."
Obama said Thursday that the government will recover all of the taxpayer money used in the auto industry bailout last year and held it up as an example of "a good story" in his administration's economic efforts.
The White House said today that that pledge covers the money that the Obama administration put toward the auto industry, not the $25 billion spent under the Bush Administration in late 2008.
"The money that this administration invested, about $60 billion, we believe we're on the path to recouping all of that," Gibbs said.
This is Obama's second trip to Michigan in two weeks. On July 15, he traveled to Holland to tout the groundbreaking of a new advanced battery plant that he said would not just stimulate the local economy but also be a key element to turning around the U.S. economy and creating jobs that have recently been heading overseas.
"This is about more than building a new factory," the president said in front of construction equipment at the plant's future site in Holland. "It's about building a better future for this city, for this state, and for this country."
The new Michigan plant will open as a result of a Recovery Act advanced battery and electric vehicle award.
ABC News' Sunlen Miller contributed to this report.