Missing facts frustrate in Trump’s Ford tweets

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News

Ford Motor Co.’s lead executive for the United States says it was “frustrating” reading President-elect Donald Trump’s Twitter posts criticizing his company for planning to build a $1.6-billion factory in Mexico.

Speaking Wednesday at the Automotive News World Congress, Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of The Americas, said key facts were missed surrounding the automaker’s planned transfer of Focus production to Mexico; its recently nixed plan to build a factory in San Luis Potosi, Mexico; and its plans announced Monday to invest $700 million at its Flat Rock Assembly Plant and create 700 jobs in Michigan.

“One of the things for any of us that would get you frustrated is when the facts get lost in the conversation,” he said. “We thought we had a really good plan ... we thought the whole equation worked pretty well, but we got lost in the Twitter world.”

The company couldn’t tell its side, because part of the “equation” involved then-unannounced plans to build the new Ranger midsize pickup and Bronco SUV at the Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, the plant Ford would pull Focus production from for the move to Mexico.

“That’s why the UAW was excited about it,” he said. “We feel the Ranger and Bronco should be made in America.”

Ford now plans to transfer Focus production to an existing plant in Mexico. The Bronco and Ranger will be made in Wayne. Flat Rock will get a new manufacturing innovation center, and the factory will be capable of producing electrified and autonomous vehicles, plus the Ford Mustang and Lincoln Continental it already builds. Flat Rock will get two new vehicles: an all-electric SUV that will be built by 2020; an autonomous hybrid vehicle will debut in 2021.

Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr. said earlier this week that Trump’s tweets didn’t play into Ford’s change of plans, though he has had multiple conversations with the president-elect.

Hinrichs called Ford the “poster child” of producing “more vehicles in the United States than anybody else.”

“To have us as kind of the focal point of the conversation around (companies) taking production out of the U.S. ... That part gets a little frustrating, because you lose sight or perspective of the facts,” he said.

“We’re proud of our American heritage and what we do here,” he said. “But we are a global company, and we have to compete globally.”