Like unintentional campaign commercials, U.S. automobiles and roadways are reminders of how presidential actions can influence everyday life. Hagerty, a leader in classic car insurance, listed the “Top Ten Presidential Influences of the Automotive Industry.” Restyling magazine found these five the most significant:
Automotive Industry Crisis (2008-2009)-George W. Bush and Barrack Obama
Initially started by President Bush when auto industry sales fell significantly in 2008 due to soaring fuel prices and global financial downturn, President Obama ordered an $80 billion financial bailout to allowed Chrysler and General Motors to address upcoming cash shortages in 2009.
Chrysler and GM’s decision to receive federal aid and file for bankruptcy may have seemed dire at the time, but the bailout helped the carmakers shed excesses such as overproduction, bloated vehicle lineups and excessive rebates. Now their profits are rebounding as economists predict a bright future for automakers.
Chrysler Bailout (1979)-Jimmy Carter
When Chrysler was on the verge of bankruptcy in 1979, President Carter agreed to order federal loan guarantees providing the company with $1.5 billion to cover manufacturing costs. Chrysler suffered from dropping automobile sales caused by rising gas prices, fierce competition from foreign automakers and high interest rates.
Without the bailout, Chrysler’s bankruptcy would have resulted in more than 360,000 jobs lost and a possible recession, for the U.S. economy was experiencing a significant downturn at the time.
Corporate Average Fuel Economy (1975)-Gerald Ford
In the wake of the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo that caused rising U.S. gas prices, Congress enacted the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) regulations under the Ford Administration to improve the average fuel economy of cars and light trucks.
As a result, automakers such as the Detroit Big Three began manufacturing smaller cars, and motorists were encouraged to purchase more fuel-efficient vehicles.
The Highway Safety Act and National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safely Act (1966)-Lyndon Johnson
The motorization of America caused a significant growth in vehicle injuries and fatalities. As a result, President Johnson passed the Highway Safety Act and the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act in 1966, which allowed the federal government to administer new safety standards for motor vehicles and roadways.
New vehicle safety requirements included seat belts, headrests, impact-absorbing steering wheels and shatter-resistant windshields, while new road safety measures included enhanced guardrails, break-away signs and greater illumination of roadways.
Interstate Highway System (1956)-Dwight Eisenhower
An increase in automobile traffic, a concern for national security and encouragement from major U.S. automakers, influenced President Eisenhower’s decision to sign the Federal Aid Highway Act in 1956. The act provided funding for the development of a 41,000-mile Interstate Highway System that was completed 35 years later.
The project is referred to as one of the “greatest public works projects” in U.S. history and contributed to shaping the country into an industrialized nation.