Detroit Free Press: 7 questions with Congresswoman Haley Stevens at Detroit auto show
It’s been a whirlwind decade for new Congresswoman Haley Stevens. From being the former chief of staff for President Barack Obama’s auto bailout team to the halls of Congress, to also being elected co-president of the Democratic freshman class in the House, along with Rep. Colin Allred of Texas, Stevens is quickly getting her arms around her new world.
As the 2019 North American International Auto Show kicked off this week, I was able to do a quick Q&A on issues facing the industry.
Q: Amid this backdrop of shiny new cars and trucks, what kind of vehicle are you driving?
A: I am driving a Ford Escape. I know a little bit about cars, I can change a tire. But I want to learn more about how to fix things under the hood. My dad is helping me with that.
Q: With NAIAS’ upcoming move to June in 2020, I heard you are pursuing a plan to hold an event focusing on the auto industry for Congress next January. What can you tell us about it?
A: Next January, I would like host an inaugural congressional delegation trip to southeast Michigan so that members of Congress from across the country can have the opportunity to learn about the future of the auto industry by way of our autonomous vehicle technology and electrification.
Q: Why is that important?
A: We have a compelling story to tell and there is a demand to understand the complexities and future of transportation in this country. Metro Detroit is playing a leading role with the resurgence of advanced manufacturing, our leadership in mobility and cybersecurity, all of which impact the auto industry.
Many remember the low days 10 years ago when we experienced the largest drop in sales in the history of the automobile. But not only have we bounced back, we’ve written ourselves into the innovation trajectory of the country and have become a region of tremendous opportunity. Our automakers bounced back, our manufacturing sector is thriving, and we are at the forefront of autonomous vehicle technology. I want this opportunity to show my colleagues in the House of Representatives what we’re doing in the Motor City.
Q: What did you on the auto task force recovery staff?
A: In 2009, Steve Rattner made me his chief of staff on President Obama’s auto rescue task force, the federal initiative responsible for saving General Motors, Chrysler and 200,000 Michigan jobs. I had a wide range of responsibilities, ranging from overseeing operations to working with our suppliers and congressional leaders on overall programmatic goals.
Q: What exactly are you envisioning for next January?
A: We are still in the planning process but I envision a multiday event.
Q: What’s your earliest memory of the auto show?
A: The first time I went to NAIAS, I know I was a young child. But I’ve always remember this event as a cornerstone kickoff to the year, placing Detroit on the map, show casing our talent, bringing together competitors and wooing the world with product, design and creativity.
Q: You were in DC when the auto industry was down and out and had a hard time getting attention. How do you see it now?
A: Policy-makers are simultaneously intrigued and inspired by the future of the auto industry and where the technology is heading, but they need to know more about southeastern Michigan’s role and leadership. There’s also a lot to learn about the big visions of U.S. automakers and where the companies are heading.
I’d like to reposition the perception of the auto industry as technology-driven and connected to the tech hubs throughout the country. For instance, Chrysler’s new COO, Mark Stewart, was recruited from his former position as vice president for operations for Amazon. We understand the landscape, we’ve been around for a long time, and we’re ready to compete.
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