America's colossal debt is the largest challenge facing Michelin in the US but also it biggest opportunity, said the tyre producer.

The US debt is now running at a mind-numbing US$16.4tn, with the country only paying down US$280bn per year, according to Michelin.

"The biggest threat to Michelin in North America is the economy and the biggest threat to the economy is the deficit," chairman and president Michelin North America, Pete Selleck, told just-auto in Detroit. "We are talking to our government leaders and trying to explain to them the risks of this [as well as to] educate the public and educate our employees.

"In March, there is debt ceiling legislation that has to be passed by Congress. The problem has to get solved."

Despite concerns surrounding the national US debt, Michelin is performing extremely well in North America, having seen significant positive results with its Defender brand and pulled off something of a coup at the Detroit show.

"We will be the exclusive supplier for the fitment on the Corvette which is pretty significant news," said Selleck.

"It is very emblematic for this market. Chevrolet really wants this car to be a breakthrough."

The North America president also highlighted the role of Michelin in the US economy and, as South Carolina's largest employer with 8,000 staff, it is taking on new hires after not making any employees redundant even during the darkest days of the auto business chronic downturn a few years ago.

"As we came out of the crisis, we needed every one of those people," said Selleck. "There were zero redundancies in North America.

"It hurt financially a little, but having our people, it was a dramatic payoff."

Michelin is currently embarked on a global US$2bn investment programme and is building five new plants in Brazil, China, India and the US.