Former U.S. car czar thinks more cuts could have been made image

Steven Rattner, the former head of the U.S. auto task force, said the U.S. auto industry could have been more globally competitive if he had pushed auto workers, management and creditors to accept deeper concessions.

Rattner describes the 2009 bailouts of General Motors and Chrysler as an unambigous success, but he admitted having second thoughts about some details of the bankruptcy restructurings. He mentioned the fact that no active workers represented by the UAW received a pay cut nor were they asked to give up a portion of their pensions. Rattner thinks creditors also got more than they would have received in a liquidation.

“If we had more time, we might have asked all the stakeholders to sacrifice a little bit more,” Rattner was quoted as saying by Reuters at the Detroit Economic Club. Rattner was assigned by the Obama administration to rescue GM and Chrysler as head of the auto task force. He described the time as “not even a near-death experience – a death experience” for the largest U.S. automaker, General Motors.

Former car czar said GM’s recovery has exceeded his expectations, even though, in retrospect, he said he would have done more to make the company’s cost structure more rational. “We could have done a little bit better job, particularly on GM, in combing through the mess of liabilities and contracts and things they had if we had a little more time,” Rattner said.