Auto team drives imports
WASHINGTON -- The vehicles owned by the Obama administration's auto team
could reflect one reason why Detroit's Big Three automakers are in
trouble: The list includes few new American cars.
Among the eight members named Friday to the Presidential Task Force on
the Auto Industry and the 10 senior policy aides who will assist them in
their work, two own American models. Add the Treasury Department's
special adviser to the task force and the total jumps to three.
The Detroit News reviewed public records to discover what many of the
task force and staff members drove, but information was not available on
all of the officials, and records for some states were not complete.
At least two task force members don't own a car, and there are still two
open slots on the 10-member panel that will be filled by the secretaries
of labor and commerce, who have not yet been appointed.
The co-chairs of the task force -- Treasury Secretary Timothy F.
Geithner and White House National Economic Council Director Lawrence
Summers -- both own foreign automobiles.
Geithner owns a 2008 Acura TSX, registered in New York. He once owned a
1999 Honda Accord and a 2002 Acura MDX, according to public records.
Geithner is the president's designee for purposes of enforcing loan
agreements with GM and Chrysler and must approve or reject any proposed
transactions by either company that would cost $100 million or more.
His maternal grandfather, Charles Moore, was a vice president at Ford
Motor Co. from 1952-63, according to Peter Geithner, the secretary's
father. But Geithner wasn't very interested in cars growing up -- in
part because he graduated from high school in Asia, his father said.
Summers owns a 1995 Mazda Protege that's registered in Massachusetts. He
previously owned a 1996 Ford Taurus GL.
What other task force members drive:
• Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag owns a 2008
Honda Odyssey and a 2004 Volvo S60. He previously owned a 1997 Jeep
Grand Cherokee and 1982 Datsun.
• Carol Browner, the White House climate czar, said earlier this month
at the Washington Auto Show that she doesn't own an automobile. Public
records show she once owned a 1999 Saab 9-5 SE.
• Energy Secretary Steven Chu doesn't own a car, his wife, Jean Fetter,
said in a telephone interview on Sunday. Cabinet officials are typically
transported to and from work by security officials in government vehicles.
• Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson owns a 2008
Toyota Prius and a Honda Odyssey minivan, she said Sunday. "It's great,"
she said of her Prius.
• Vehicle information was not available for Transportation Secretary Ray
LaHood or Christine Romer, head of the Council of Economic Advisers.
Here's what task force policy aides drive:
• Austan Goolsbee, staff director and chief economist for the White
House Economic Recovery Advisory Board, owns a 2004 Toyota Highlander.
• Joan DeBoer, the chief of staff to LaHood, said in an interview Sunday
she drives a 2008 Lexus RX 350. She doesn't consider herself "a car
buff" and views her car as a way to get around town.
• Heather Zichal, deputy director of the White House Office of Energy
and Climate Change, owns a Volvo C30, according to public records and
• Gene Sperling, counsel to the Treasury Secretary, owns a 2003 Lincoln
LS, and previously owned a 1993 Saturn SL2.
• Edward B. Montgomery, senior adviser to the Labor Department, owns a
1991 Harley-Davidson and previously owned a 1990 Ford Taurus L station
wagon, public records show.
• Lisa Heinzerling, senior climate policy counsel to the head of the
EPA, owns a 1998 Subaru Legacy Outback station wagon, according to her
• Diana Farrell, the deputy National Economic Council director, doesn't
own a vehicle. Her husband, Scott Pearson, owns a 1985 Peugeot 505 S.
• Dan Utech, senior adviser to the Energy Secretary, owns a 2003 Mini
Cooper S two-door hatchback.
• Rick Wade, a senior adviser at the Commerce Department, owns a 1998
Chevrolet Cavalier and previously owned a 1998 Toyota Corolla.
• Jared Bernstein, Vice President Joe Biden's chief economist, owns a
2005 Honda Odyssey.
The White House declined to comment.
President Barack Obama traded in his Chrysler 300C for a more
fuel-efficient Ford Escape hybrid during the 2008 presidential campaign.
Joe Biden, the son of a car dealer, owns a 1967 Chevrolet Corvette -- a
wedding present from his dad. He primarily commuted from Delaware to the
Senate on Amtrak.
Ron Bloom, a special adviser to the Treasury Department who is also
advising the task force, owns an aging Ford Taurus.