WASHINGTON, Nov. 18 (UPI) -- U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd Tuesday accused auto industry executives of being "devoid of vision" and ridiculed them for their attitude toward fuel efficiency.
At the start of a hearing before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, Dodd, D-Conn., said no one "can say that they didn't see this coming."
Representatives of the Detroit automakers were on Capitol Hill, seeking help to avert bankruptcy.
"The companies have been struggling for years," noted Dodd, who chairs the panel. "They are hemorrhaging jobs; 450,000 have been lost in the last eight years alone.
"They are losing market share. For the first time the domestic auto share for Ford, Chrysler and GM has slipped below 50 percent, going from 66 percent in 2001 to just 47 percent today."
But, Dodd said, blame can be laid directly at the doors of those running the auto companies.
"Their boardrooms and executive suites in my view have been famously devoid of vision," Dodd said, adding they "derided hybrid vehicles as making, quote, 'no economic sense,' unquote. They have dismissed the threat of global warming, the role played by their products in creating it and the strong desire of the American people to do something to stop it."
Dodd said the automakers have "approached 21st century challenges with decidedly 20th century mindset, and we're all paying the price for it."
Dodd also had harsh words for Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson for refusing to use funds provided in the $700 billion Emergency Economic Stabilization Act to help the auto industry. In his own testimony Tuesday, Paulson said Congress should instead amend legislation providing $25 billion to the auto industry for retooling to produce more fuel-efficient vehicles to allow the money to be used for other purposes.