The Acura, Mazda and Toyota Drivers Charged With Saving Detroit

By Al Kamen
Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A check of the cars owned by members of President Obama's auto industy task force indicates why America's Big Three are in such trouble: A strong majority among the eight members and 10 top aides drive foreign cars, according to a survey released yesterday by the Detroit News.

The co-chairmen both do: Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, whose grandfather worked for Ford, drives a 2008 Acura TSX, while National Economic Council Director Lawrence H. Summers owns a 1995 Mazda Protege that's registered in Massachusetts, according to the survey of records -- and interviews -- by News reporter David Shepardson.

Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag has a 2008 Honda and a 2004 Volvo, while Environmental Protection Agency chief Lisa Jackson, perhaps concerned about her carbon footprint, has a high-mileage 2008 Toyota Prius ("It's great," she told the News).

White House climate empress Carol M. Browner, who's probably really concerned about leaving no footprints, doesn't even have a car. Neither does Energy Secretary Steven Chu. No car information was available for Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood or Christina Romer, head of the Council of Economic Advisers.

Turning to the task force's top aides: Austan Goolsbee, staff director of the White House Economic Recovery Advisory Board, drives a 2004 Toyota Highlander; Joan DeBoer, chief of staff to LaHood, has a 2008 Lexus; Heather Zichal, deputy director of the White House office of climate change, owns a Volvo; Treasury counsel Gene Sperling owns a 2003 Lincoln; Edward B. Montgomery, a senior adviser at the Labor Department, owns a Harley-Davidson motorcycle; Lisa Heinzerling, a senior counsel at EPA, has a 1998 Subaru; Diana Farrell, deputy NEC director, doesn't own a car, but her husband has an '85 Peugeot; Dan Utech, a senior adviser to Chu, has a 2003 Mini Cooper; Rick Wade, a senior adviser at the Commerce Department, owns a 1998 Chevy Cavalier; and Jared Bernstein, Vice President Biden's chief economist, has 2005 Honda Odyssey.

Speaking of Biden, he owns a 1967 Corvette, which he got as a wedding present from his dad, who was a car dealer. He commutes via Amtrak, of course, and so the Vette might have very low mileage.

The survey naturally drew a sharp response from Cody Lusk, president of the American International Automobile Dealers Association. "So what?" Lusk said in a statement. "When did what you drive become a requirement for government service?" he asked.

"Do the folks worried about what is parked in the garages of Obama's appointees know that more than 50 percent of all the 'import' cars sold in the United States each year are made in North America?" he asked, saying that it was time to stop "rehashing frivolous issues about what the new auto task force drives" and focus on important things.

So I guess he didn't watch the Oscars on Sunday?

He Made It

A funny thing happened this weekend when Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R), who served as budget director under President George W. Bush, came to Washington. As Daniels tells it, he was humming along early Sunday morning in the state's little two-engine King Air prop plane. He was alone in the plane, save for two pilots.

Then one pilot turned around and said, "Well, Governor, you better bundle up. We've got to divert over here to Columbus, Ohio."

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