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Obama to Big Three: Go Green

There was a time when it took guts for a politician to go in to Detroit and tell the heart of America's shrinking auto business that it needs to change its act. Not anymore. As Barrack Obama found out Monday, when speaking at the Detroit Economic Club.

He told the gathering that the Big Three should develop more "green" technologies and vehicles, including gas-electric hybrids. To drive the point home, he offered proposals with financial incentives for automakers that will take steps needed to build and sell more eco-friendly vehicles.

o Obama's message will play well with Detroit auto leaders. They know they need to develop more hybrids, fuel-cell vehicles and eco-friendly models. The problem is that we're still a ways from seeing the public demand for these cars and trucks hit a level where mass sales will take off. Yes, Toyota is selling more Prius', but in terms of the automaker's overall sales, they are a drop in the bucket. Now, Toyota has the profits to sink more and more money into developing hybrids. The Big Three are not yet there.

o That's why Obama's message is welcomed here in Detroit. If the Big Three are gonna truly get in the game and challenge Toyota and Honda for the lead in developing hybrids, fuel cells and alternative energy vehicles, they will need financial help to get there.

o Funny how times have changed. Ten years ago, a candidate for president would not come in to Detroit and shine a light on the Big Three falling behind their Asian rivals. In 2007, the dose of honesty is another sign of how far the Big Three have slipped.

Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com


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