LaHood Skips Corvette at Auto Show, Avoids Questions About Own Future

Courtesy North American International Auto Show

U.S, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood Speaks at the Opening Ceremony of the North American International Auto Show on Jan. 14, 2013.

If Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is stepping down imminently, he has the best poker face at the table.

LaHood today traveled to the North American International Auto Show in Detroit to speak at the show’s opening and meet with automakers in private.

Even though LaHood this year left town right after meeting with the companies, instead of walking the show floor where Chevrolet is displaying the seventh-generation Corvette, he did show up. That contrasts with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, who canceled plans to attend after announcing she’ll step down for President Barack Obama’s second term.

LaHood said even less than he’s been saying recently — which isn’t much — on whether he’ll stay for a second term.

“I don’t really have anything on that,” he said before meeting with automakers at Cobo Hall.

LaHood, one of two Republicans whom Obama appointed to his Cabinet four years ago, declined to comment on whether he’s been asked to stay or whether he wants to.

In the meeting with foreign and domestic automakers and their trade associations, no one asked LaHood about his plans, according to three people who were in the meeting and who declined to be named because the meeting was private.

LaHood spoke at the gathering along with Sens, Tom Carper, a Delaware Democrat, and Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat, and Rep. Gary Peters, a Michigan Democrat, who will help lead the congressional auto caucus this year.

If LaHood departs or is replaced, he’d leave a growing list of unfinished business that includes some of what he says are his top priorities.

The Transportation Department punted the last week of December on a rule that would require backup cameras in all new cars. LaHood today said the rule is still under discussion with no new date to issue it. He wouldn’t proclaim it dead or alive.

“We’re having lots of discussions about it,” he said. Asked about when it will come out, he said, “I don’t know. The answer really
is I don’t know. I hope soon.”

LaHood’s agency also hasn’t issued promised distracted-driving guidelines for automakers on infotainment systems. There’s no date for those to be issued either, LaHood said, also remaining noncommittal on whether they’d get done.

“As far as I’m concerned,” they’re still coming, he said.

In his absence, Deputy Transportation Secretary John Porcari and National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator David Strickland walked the auto show floor today, meeting with companies and hearing their pitches about fuel economy and new safety technology.


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