Obama visits Detroit auto show, checks out Chevy Bolt EV electric car

During a scheduled visit to Detroit, the President took a look at the new electric car options that carmakers are looking to put on the road.

Carolyn Kaster/AP
President Barack Obama sits in a new Chevrolet Bolt electric car with Patrick Foley, controls manager for the Bolt EV at GM in Detroit, as he visits the 2016 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016, to highlight the progress made by the American auto industry.

Only three U.S. presidents in history have visited the Detroit Auto Show in its century-plus of existence: Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1960, Bill Clinton in 1999, and now Barack Obama, yesterday.

At various points during the day, the president lauded the ongoing recoveries of the city of Detroit itself as well as the domestic automakers, including the two that declared bankruptcy in 2009 and had to be rescued with government-backed restructurings early in his administration.

Show organizers noted that Obama stopped at several different exhibits, including those of Chevrolet, Fiat Chrysler, and Ford, as well as German supplier ZF.

The president toured the displays in Cobo Hall with show chairman Paul Sabatini and United Auto Workers president Dennis Williams.

Long a proponent of plug-in electric vehicles as a way to reduce carbon emissions and climate change, Obama sat in the newly-introduced 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV, a 200-mile battery-electric hatchback that will go into production late this year.

The moment echoed his visit to GM's Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant in the autumn of 2010, when he sat in a then-new 2011 Chevrolet Volt range-extended electric car.

While the Secret Service won't let the president drive, he later said that he planned to purchase a Volt when he left the White House.

(Observers wondered whether that pledge might now be transferred to a Bolt EV instead.)

The Obama Administration continued a program of low-interest loans by the Department of Energy that had begun during the tenure of his predecessor, President George W. Bush.

While campaigning during 2008, the current president had set a goal of having 1 million plug-in vehicles on U.S. roads by the end of last year. The actual number as of December 31 was closer to 400,000.

Analyses and projections dating back to 2012 suggest that goal will be reached sometime during 2018.

Electric-car advocates will be waiting anxiously to see whether a mass-priced 200-mile electric car ike the Bolt EV improves plug-in car sales, which fell slightly last year compared to 2014.

Vehicle sales in the U.S. hit their highest level ever last year, with a total of 17.39 million units edging past the previous record, set all the way back in 2000.

Since 2009, U.S. auto production has more than doubled, and the industry has added 646,000 new jobs--a huge contributor to the increase of more than 900,000 U.S. manufacturing jobs since the depth of the recession.

As part of Obama's visit, the White House issued a fact sheet touting its various accomplishments for the auto industry and Detroit itself.

While he was in Detroit, Obama highlighted his administration's work with the current administration of the city of Detroit, which also had to declare bankruptcy.

The president also addressed a gathering of General Motors employees and members of the United Auto Workers at the UAW-GM Center for Human Resources.

This article first appeared at GreenCarReports.

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