Steven Rattner stopped by the Fox Business studios to talk about January auto sales and he started with a declaration that I, as a taxpayer who helped bail out General Motors and Chrysler, was happy to hear: the U.S. auto industry looks pretty good these days. Rattner was tapped in '08 by President Obama to restructure a disastrous industry. Look, before the crisis, you didn't have to look that hard to see that the auto industry with its union and healthcare legacy costs looked like that fake elephant they have stuck in the La Brea Tar Pits for L.A. tourists and school kids to gawk at: bogged down and completely stuck. But today, General Motors--- the worst of the offenders-- posted a 22 percent rise in January sales, outperforming expectations for the market on gains in demand for, among other vehicles, its pick-up trucks.
Rattner is optimistic. He sees light vehicle sales in the U.S. climbing to 14 million units this year, and 15 million by 2012. Keep in mind that pre-crisis, the industry was hitting 16 million units. I'm not as optimistic as Rattner is, and I'm not sure we should go back to our "3 cars in the driveway" behavior that got us into trouble in the past, but hey, I'm game to listen to what else he had to say. And with oil prices rising as Egypt comes to a slow boil, Rattner's the guy I wanted to hear from about whether we'll change our dirty-fuel-guzzling behavior. You should listen to why he doesn't think it will... YET.