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The Real Story Behind the U.S. Auto Bailouts

Stocks in this article: GM F

Marchionne had started in the 1980s as an accountant and tax specialist who didn't enter the auto industry until the 2000s.

Romney suggested that the Big Three make investments for the future, and one of those investments was fuel-saving designs.

Rattner wrote that the White House negotiated fuel-efficiency standards directly with the auto makers, but Romney simply wanted the federal government to invest in basic research on new energy sources and fuel-economy technology -- not to dictate the terms of fuel-efficiency. (This is a side-product argument from the two sides about how much control the Obama administration had during the restructurings.)

Finally, Romney said "don't fire the best dealers," which Rattner and the Obama administration found to be a difficult task. But ultimately, the government let GM and Chrysler choose which dealers to shutter -- a choice Romney likely had in mind.

"Every congressional district had dealers, many of whom were leading figures in their communities. We were inundated with an avalanche of calls, letters, and demands," Rattner wrote. "We patiently worked through each grievance and explained hundreds of times that the companies -- not the government -- made the decisions about which dealers to close."

Did Obama Make a Good Investment, Or Select the Only Option?

General Motors recently beat first-quarter estimates and raised its 2012 sales outlook showing signs of shrugging off troubles in Europe, which have seemingly been offset by promising sales in China.

Shares of the company, though, have dipped 37.2% since going public again in late 2010, and because the Treasury still holds an equity stake in GM, they've lost money on the investment.

The Treasury exited its Chrysler stake in July 2011 reportedly at a $1.3 billion loss .

Though the American automotive industry has enjoyed some recent strength driven by truck sales, accelerated depreciation on new equipment is scheduled to expire at the end of 2012 . This is a big tax incentive for small businesses, which are the likely purchasers of a huge chunk of those vehicles.

But would the end of accelerated depreciation specifically hurt auto manufacturers?

"It's distinctly possible," said Doug Roberts, chief investment strategist of "Heavy trucks -- most of them are used for small businesses, so at some point it's like you have to get a new truck and you may have postponed it during all this time, and then all of a sudden if you can do an accelerated depreciation on new equipment, you think, 'OK, now it's a good time to buy a new truck.'"

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