Donald Trump has claimed credit for keeping a Ford plant from moving to Mexico after the automaker said it would continue making its Lincoln model in Kentucky, though the company denied it ever planned to move the factory.
The president-elect said on Twitter that he had been called by Bill Ford, chairman of the carmaker, who told him “he will be keeping the Lincoln plant in Kentucky — no Mexico.” But Mr Trump suggested his intervention had prevented the plant shifting to Mexico, which Ford says was never the plan.
“Just got a call from my friend Bill Ford, Chairman of Ford, who advised me that he will be keeping the Lincoln plant in Kentucky — no Mexico,” Mr Trump said in the initial tweet Thursday night.
“I worked hard with Bill Ford to keep the Lincoln plant in Kentucky,” he added in a follow-up tweet. “I owed it to the great State of Kentucky for their confidence in me!”
A spokesman for Ford confirmed the company had reversed its plan to stop making the Lincoln MKC at a plant in Louisville, but said it never had any plans to close the plant, where it also makes the Ford Escape.
“Today, we confirmed with the president-elect that our small Lincoln utility vehicle made at the Louisville Assembly Plant will stay in Kentucky,” the spokesman said. “We are encouraged that president-elect Trump and the new Congress will pursue policies that will improve US competitiveness and make it possible to keep production of this vehicle here in the United States.”
A promise to stop auto companies shifting jobs to Mexico was a theme of the election campaign, with Mr Trump rounding on Ford for particular criticism following the announcement in September that it was moving all small car production to plants across the border.
Mr Trump called the move “a disgrace” but also acknowledged it was “one of the reasons we’re doing so well in Ohio and Michigan and lots of other places where cars and parts are involved”.
In one of the lengthy campaign’s more memorable phrases, Mr Trump observed “it used to be that cars were made in Flint and you couldn’t drink the water in Mexico, now cars are made in Mexico and you can’t drink the water in Flint”.
Ford’s Mexican plans have been long flagged. In April last year, Ford announced it intended to invest $2.5bn to build two new plants in Mexico, adding 3,800 jobs in all. Earlier this year, Ford said it would invest a further $1.6bn in Mexico for small-car production to start in 2018. In September, Ford confirmed that all of the company’s small-car production will leave US plants and head to lower-cost Mexico by 2019, but no US plants would be closed as a result.
On Tuesday, the company said it was “moving ahead” with plans to move production of the Focus to Mexico but repeated there would be “no jobs impact whatsoever” in the UK from the decision.
The head of the United Auto Workers complained in April that the new factory in Mexico did represent “jobs that could have and should have been available right here in the USA,” but both the union and the company have pointed out that Ford is making significant investment in its US workforce.
The company says shifting small-car production to Mexico, where the company can reduce its labour costs, would not result in any lay-offs among Ford’s US workforce because the company is simultaneously investing more in domestic production of bigger vehicles.
Like many rivals, Ford is increasing production of more profitable trucks and sport-utility vehicles in the US while investing to boost output in Mexico for lower-margin small cars.
Ford says it has invested $12bn in its US factories over the past five years creating 28,000 jobs.
The two Kentucky plants were promised more than a $1bn of new investment according to the UAW’s 2015 contract with the company.
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