DETROIT (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama used the bailout of U.S. automakers to enrich union supporters, and that action marred the industry's recovery, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said today in an op-ed column in The Detroit News.
As part of Obama's plan to save Chrysler Group LLC, the UAW's trust fund received a 55 percent stake in the company while Chrysler's secured creditors got "short shrift," he wrote.
Romney, whose father, George, was president of American Motors Corp., also said that the administration should sell government-owned shares of General Motors Co. and turn the profit over to taxpayers.
"The president tells us that without his intervention things in Detroit would be worse," Romney wrote. "I believe that without his intervention things there would be better."
Obama has made the taxpayer bailout of GM and Chrysler, which is majority-owned by Fiat S.p.A., a theme in his re-election campaign.
Automakers are increasing production after U.S. light-vehicle sales rose at least 10 percent for two straight years for the first time since 1984. Last month, GM announced it had regained the title as the top-selling global automaker, which it lost to Toyota Motor Corp. as it slid into bankruptcy.
Chrysler's U.S. sales increase of 44 percent last month surpassed eight analysts' average estimate for a 32 percent sales gain. The company's free cash flow was $1.9 billion last year, Chrysler said in a statement earlier this month. The company forecast $1 billion free cash flow for 2012.
Romney's article was published a day after the release of two surveys showing him losing to former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum in Michigan, the former Massachusetts governor's birthplace and site of the next presidential primary on Feb. 28. Arizona holds a primary the same day.
An automated telephone poll of 404 Republican primary voters taken Feb. 10-12 by Public Policy Polling showed Santorum over Romney, 39 percent to 24 percent. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.
A telephone poll by American Research Group, taken among 600 likely Republican primary voters Feb. 11-12, has Santorum leading Romney by 33 percent to 27 percent, with a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points.