The head of Fiat-Chrysler said today that Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney must have been "smoking illegal material" when he argued in 2008 that the US auto industry could be resurrected without federal financial assistance.
During an interview with CNN, Sergio Marchionne, chief executive of Fiat and Chrysler, said government support was pivotal.
The comment contrasted with a 2008 op-ed column in which Romney urged the federal government not to provide an industry bailout but instead force automakers into a "managed bankruptcy."
Marchionne told CNN: "Whoever told you that is smoking illegal material. That market had become absolutely dysfunctional in 2008 and 2009. There were attempts made by a variety of people to find strategic alliances with other car makers on a global scale and the government stepped in, as the actor of last resort. It had to do it because the consequences would have been just too large to deal with."
Romney and his top aides have argued recently that President Obama actually followed his advice, linking their financial help with a corporate overhaul at places such as Chrysler and General Motors.
In his op-ed, Romney wrote: "It is not wrong to ask for government help, but the automakers should come up with a win-win proposition. ... The federal government should provide guarantees for post-bankruptcy financing and assure car buyers that their warranties are not at risk."
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Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.