Ford: We’re not canceling Mexican plans despite Trump

David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Ford Motor Co. said Monday it has not changed its plans to invest in Mexico — despite Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump comments suggesting the Dearborn automaker was canceling its expansion plans.

Trump has spent six months flogging the Dearborn automaker for expanding in Mexico in nearly every speech — and as recently as in a “Today” show roundtable with voters in New Hampshire in Monday, when he said he should get “credit” for erroneously saying he has convinced Ford to cancel a planned new plant in Mexico and open one in the U.S.

“Mexico took a Ford plant. I’ve been very tough on the Ford. ... I heard last night that Ford is moving back to the United States — they may not do that deal. I get credit for that — I should get credit for that,” Trump said in a live interview. “I brought (Ford’s Mexican expansion plan) up in so many speeches and frankly I think I embarrassed them. But Ford now is going to build a big massive plant in the United States — and every single person, even my harshest critics gave me credit for that. I’m going to do that times 1,000.”

Ford, in fact, has no plans to build a new plant in the United States. Ford last opened a new U.S. plant — the Dearborn Truck Plant — in 2004.

It is possible that Ford could announce moving some work back from Mexico as part of the United Auto Workers contract talks, but a spokeswoman confirmed Monday the automaker is not canceling its significant new investments in Mexico -— or building any new U.S. plants.

“Ford has not spoken with Mr. Trump, nor have we made any changes to our plans,” according to a Ford statement.

“We decided to move the F-650 and F-750 medium-duty trucks to Ohio Assembly in 2011, long before any candidates announced their intention to run for U.S. president. We are proud that Ford has invested $10.2 billion in our U.S. plants since 2011 and hired nearly 25,000 U.S. employees. Overall, more than 80 percent of our North American investment annually is in the U.S., and 97 percent of our North American engineering is conducted in the U.S.”

Ohio Gov. John Kasich blasted Trump saying “our country needs real leadership and not empty, false rhetoric,” noting that under his leadership Ford opted to move work from Mexico to Ohio — in 2011.

“That’s how things really get done. Hard work and teamwork brings results for the people,” Kasich said.

Trump — who is leading the Republican presidential field in some polls — cited a factually incorrect story from an obscure blog called “Printly” on Sunday and reiterated it today. It’s not clear whose behind the site that only went up a few months ago.

“Do you think I will get credit for keeping Ford in U.S. Who cares, my supporters know the truth. Think what can be done as president,” Trump wrote in one tweet that was retweeted and favorited 6,000 times.

“Word is that Ford Motor, because of my constant badgering at packed events, is going to cancel their deal to go to Mexico and stay in U.S.,” Trump wrote in another tweet.

Trump’s statements have at times misstated the purpose of the investment — he has suggested that Ford is building a single new $2.5 billion plant. In fact, Ford is building an engine and a transmission plant and expanding another parts plant.

Trump also hasn’t mentioned that Ford is not moving to Mexico and has had operations in Mexico for 90 years. Ford currently has 11,300 employees in Mexico, where it builds the Ford Fiesta, Fusion and Lincoln MKZ as well as the hybrid versions of both are manufactured in Mexico. Ford also has an Engineering Center in Mexico, which employs more than 1,100 engineers who support global projects.

Ford said in April it would invest $2.5 billion to build new engine and transmission plants in two separate Mexican states — Chihuahua and Guanajuato — and would create 3,800 jobs with a new engine plant in Chihuahua, expansion of Ford’s I-4 and diesel engine lines in Chihuahua and a new transmission plant — Ford’s first in Mexico — in Guanajuato.

Ford has repeatedly said it is not closing any U.S. plants as a result of its Mexican expansion. In 2011, the automaker said it was shifting production of heavy trucks — the F-650 and F-750 — from Mexico to a factory in Ohio — and touted the launch of that production in August.

“Ford is making a significant commitment to our business in Mexico with investment in two new facilities, while aiming to make our vehicles even more fuel-efficient with a new generation of engines and transmissions our team in Mexico will build,” said Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of the Americas, in April. “These new engines and transmissions will help deliver even better driving experiences and fuel economy gains for customers around the world.”

The new engine facility is being built within Ford’s Chihuahua Engine Plant, where the company will produce a new gasoline-powered engine. This $1.1 billion investment and 1,300 new jobs will allow Ford to export engines to the U.S., Canada, South America and elsewhere.

An additional $200 million dollar investment and 500 more new jobs is part of the expansion of Ford’s current I-4 and Diesel engines production in Chihuahua. That will make the Ford Engine Plant in Chihuahua the biggest engine plant in Mexico.

In addition, Ford is building a new $1.2 billion transmission plant within the premises of transmission supplier and longtime partner Getrag, adding 2,000 new jobs.

In August, Trump told The Detroit News that Ford CEO Mark Fields wrote to him explaining the automaker’s planned $2.5 billion investment in Mexico after Trump criticized Ford in June. Trump suggested one way to stop automakers’ expansion to Mexico is by moving some production out of Michigan to lower-wage states.

“I don’t like what’s happening,” Trump told The News in August. “We’re losing our jobs. We’re losing our wealth. We’re losing our country ... Why can’t we do it in this country? It’s an incredible thing that we’re not allowed to make our product.”

Trump has repeatedly said that if elected, he would not allow Ford to open a new plant in Mexico. At his campaign announcement speech in New York in June, Trump said he would call Fields to explain the “bad news.”

“Let me give you the bad news: Every car, every truck and every part manufactured in this plant that comes across the border, we’re going to charge you a 35 percent tax,” Trump said. “They are going to take away thousands of jobs.”

It isn’t clear how Trump could legally single out one automaker for punitive taxes — and the move would violate current U.S. free trade agreements.

In July, Ford said it would end small car production at its Michigan Assembly plant in Wayne. It didn’t say where it would locate production, but some analysts have suggested the work will move to Mexico. The automaker has insisted it has no plans to close the Wayne plant and will add new production.

General Motors Co. in December announced a $5 billion investment in Mexico over six years. GM has four complexes in Mexico with 14 manufacturing plants comprising assembly, engine, transmission, stamping and foundry work which employs about 15,000 people.

In addition to the Ford and GM expansions, BMW AG, Volkswagen AG and its Audi unit, Nissan Motor Co., Kia Motors and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV are among the automakers that have built or announced new plants or plant expansions.

Many automakers have decided they can’t build small cars profitably in the U.S. Auto workers in Mexico make as little as $9 an hour. In addition, Mexico has dozens of free trade agreements around the world, free or nearly free land on which to build, and fewer regulatory hurdles.