Former Mo. gov. Blunt new head of automotive group

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Former Missouri governor Matt Blunt took over Tuesday as leader of a group that promotes the interests of U.S. automobile manufacturers and pledged to broaden its traditional focus on trade issues to include domestic policies.

Blunt is the new president of the American Automotive Policy Council, which was created jointly by Chrysler Group LLC, Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co.

The council typically has focused on trade issues for Detroit's car companies, but Blunt said he plans to expand the organization's policy agenda to include issues such as fuel efficiency standards and safety regulations. The Obama administration set fuel economy standards through the 2016 model year and is developing new rules through 2025. Blunt said the group wants to ensure the next round of standards is reasonable.

Blunt said he also hopes to promote the role of U.S. automakers in the nation's manufacturing agenda while pushing for fair trade policies. U.S. automakers, including Ford, were actively involved in negotiations last year that led to a deal to open South Korea's auto market.

A Republican, Blunt served as Missouri's governor from 2005 to 2009 and previously was secretary of state and a Missouri House member. He is the son of U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo.

In announcing Blunt's hiring, officials from Chrysler, Ford and General Motors released written statements citing his experience leading of one of the nation's top producing states of automobiles and vehicle components.

Ford announced a couple of weeks ago that it will accept a Missouri incentive package and spend about $400 million to prepare a Kansas City area plant to make an unspecified vehicle when production of the Ford Escape shifts to Kentucky after this year. But Missouri's incentives have failed to prevent several other auto plants from closing in recent years. Ford shut down a St. Louis area plant in 2006. Chrysler closed two plants in the St. Louis area, one in 2008 and another in 2009.

Blunt has held a variety of private-sector jobs since leaving office. He joined the board of directors of Copart Inc., an auto salvage company that sells vehicles to dismantlers, rebuilders, exporters and used car dealers. He also has worked as an adviser at the private equity firm Solamere Capital, an adviser to the Washington, D.C., lobbying firm of Cassidy & Associates and a consultant for the Ashcroft Group, founded by former U.S. attorney general and Missouri senator and governor John Ashcroft. Blunt also is on the board of directors of the National Rifle Association.

Blunt, 40, said his latest position will be a full-time job, and he plans to move with his wife and two children from Springfield, Mo., to the Washington area.

Associated Press writer Ken Thomas contributed to this report from Washington.

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