Obama campaign to respond to Romney's Ohio Jeep ad
WASHINGTON (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama's campaign said it will air an Ohio television ad that rebuts what outside observers call a false impression left by Republican challenger Mitt Romney about Chrysler Group LLC moving Jeep production to China.
As images of cars being crushed are shown in a recent 30-second Romney campaign commercial, a narrator says Obama "sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China. Mitt Romney will fight for every American job."
It began airing this weekend and had appeared 15 times on Toledo stations and 14 times in Youngstown by Sunday morning, according to Kantar Media's CMAG, a New York-based political ad tracker.
What isn't said in Romney's ad is that Chrysler is retaining and expanding its North America Jeep operations, including in Toledo, as it separately weighs breaking into China, the world's largest auto market.
Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne today issued a statement refuting Romney's ads, detailing the company's ongoing commitments to Jeep in North America.
"Jeep is one of our truly global brands with uniquely American roots. This will never change," the statement said. "So much so that we committed that the iconic Wrangler nameplate, currently produced in our Toledo, Ohio plant, will never see full production outside the United States."
Chrysler earlier emphasized in a blog post that it has "no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America to China."
"They are inviting a false inference," Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, said of the Romney campaign. "It is literally accurate and inferentially false. We also call it 'not the whole story.'"
The ad follows similar comments Romney made last week in Defiance, Ohio, prompting rebukes from the UAW and Obama's campaign. Speaking at an Obama campaign rally Monday in Youngstown, former President Bill Clinton said Chrysler called it "the biggest load of bull in the world" that they'd consider shutting down Jeep's North America operations.
Both White House candidates are fighting for votes in a state where polls show them in a tight race. Ohio, which is second only to Michigan in auto industry jobs, benefited from the government-backed bankruptcy of General Motors Co. and Chrysler under Obama. Romney opposed that bailout.
Obama's response ad, released Monday, will start airing today on TV in Ohio, the campaign said. The ad says Romney "turned his back" on the auto industry and then pivots to the Jeep issue. "And now, after Romney's false claim of Jeep outsourcing to China, Chrysler itself has refuted Romney's lie," a narrator says. The ads concludes: "Mitt Romney on Ohio jobs? Wrong then, dishonest now."
Italian Fiat S.p.A., majority owner of Chrysler, is in discussions with its Chinese partner, Guangzhou Automobile Group Co., to make Jeeps in China.
China taxes imported vehicles and is proposing additional tariffs on U.S.-made vehicles. China argues that U.S. taxpayer support of the industry, particularly GM and Chrysler, were illegal under World Trade Organization rules. To avoid China's tariffs on imported vehicles, automakers typically form joint ventures with Chinese companies to make cars and trucks in the country.
At the same time, Chrysler is adding production crews at Toledo and Detroit plants, an expansion that the company said means 2,200 new jobs.
Romney made his statement about Jeep decamping for China before a crowd of 12,000 supporters at his Oct. 25 rally in Defiance. The singer Meat Loaf performed at the event in the Defiance High School football stadium.
"I saw a story today that one of the great manufacturers in this state, Jeep, now owned by the Italians, is thinking of moving all production to China," Romney said. "I will fight for every good job in America, I'm going to fight to make sure trade is fair."
Romney's Toledo ad cites an Oct. 22 Bloomberg News story about Fiat's discussions with Guangzhou. Even before Romney spoke in Defiance, Chrysler defended the story while addressing people who may be misinterpreting or misusing it.
"Despite clear and accurate reporting, the take has given birth to a number of stories making readers believe that Chrysler plans to shift all Jeep production to China from North America, and therefore idle assembly lines and U.S. workforce," Gaulberto Ranieri, a senior vice president for corporate communications, wrote in an Oct. 25 blog post on Chrysler's Web site. "It is a leap that would be difficult even for professional circus acrobats."
The company has no intention of abandoning its North America production, Ranieri wrote. "A careful and unbiased reading of the Bloomberg take would have saved unnecessary fantasies and extravagant comments."
Romney officials didn't announce the new ad before it was released, as the campaign has with many of its commercials.
"The fact that they didn't release it publicly tells you they know the ad is dishonest," Hall Jamieson said. She said the ad builds on Romney's message that Obama is shipping jobs overseas and that the bailout wasn't effective.
The UAW condemned Romney's Defiance comments and the subsequent ad.
"Anyone with an ounce of knowledge about the auto industry and Chrysler's production plans would know what Mitt Romney said wasn't true," UAW Vice President General Holiefield, who directs the union's Chrysler Department, said in an Oct. 27 press release.
Ken Lortz, UAW director of the region that includes Ohio and Indiana, said in an Obama campaign conference call with reporters today that the Romney ad represents "the lowest form of political tactics." The spot features "clever word- smithing" to avoid outright falsehoods, he said, "but the intent of the ad is completely dishonest."
Chrysler announced a year ago that it would add 1,100 jobs to the Toledo Jeep plant and in January that it will add a third crew and 1,100 jobs at its Jefferson North Assembly Plant in Detroit, which makes Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango sports-utility vehicles.
Ohio has the second-highest total automotive industry employment after Michigan, with almost 850,000 jobs from manufacturing, parts and dealers, according to an April 2010 report by the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich.
The center concluded that under a worst-case bankruptcy scenario for Chrysler and GM under which GM never fully recovered, Ohio would have lost more than 201,000 auto-related jobs in 2009 and 2010, a May 2009 report said.
The industry accounts for 4 percent of Ohio's jobs, and since 2009, the start of Obama's bailout initiatives, auto-related jobs have increased by 6.1 percent, or 11,100 jobs in Ohio, according to a Bloomberg Government analysis.
That has helped keep Ohio's unemployment rate lower than the national average, the analysis concluded. In September, the jobless rate in the Buckeye State was 7 percent compared with the U.S. rate of 7.8 percent that month.
Former Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland has said he thinks Obama will carry Ohio in large part because of the auto bailout, and that Romney is now "desperate" to address the issue because "he knows he's losing" the state.
"But for him to do what he did is despicable," Strickland said of the Jeep comments in an Oct. 26 interview on MSNBC.
"Think of the angst that those workers felt when they heard him say that. And obviously, it showed a lack of judgment and a lack of truthfulness. This man is not ready to be the President of the United States of America."
PRESS RELEASE: Marchionne's Oct. 30 statement on Jeep commitment
Chrysler Group's production plans for the Jeep® brand have become the focus of public debate.
I feel obliged to unambiguously restate our position: Jeep production will not be moved from the United States to China.
North American production is critical to achieving our goal of selling 800,000 Jeep vehicles by 2014. In fact, U.S. production of our Jeep models has nearly tripled (it is expected to be up 185%) since 2009 in order to keep up with global demand.
We also are investing to improve and expand our entire U.S. operations, including our Jeep facilities. The numbers tell the story:
We will invest more than $1.7 billion to develop and produce the next generation Jeep SUV, the successor of the Jeep Liberty -- including $500 million directly to tool and expand our Toledo Assembly Complex and will be adding about 1,100 jobs on a second shift by 2013.
At our Jefferson North Assembly Plant, where we build the Jeep Grand Cherokee, we have created 2,000 jobs since June 2009 and have invested more than $1.8 billion.
In Belvidere, where we build two Jeep models, we have added two shifts since 2009 resulting in an additional 2,600 jobs.
With the increase in demand for our vehicles, especially Jeep branded vehicles, we have added more than 11,200 U.S. jobs since 2009. Plants producing Jeep branded vehicles alone have seen the number of people invested in the success of the Jeep brand grow to more than 9,300 hourly jobs from 4,700. This will increase by an additional 1,100 as the Liberty successor, which will be produced in Toledo, is introduced for global distribution in the second quarter of 2013.
Together, we are working to establish a global enterprise and previously announced our intent to return Jeep production to China, the world's largest auto market, in order to satisfy local market demand, which would not otherwise be accessible. Chrysler Group is interested in expanding the customer base for our award-winning Jeep vehicles, which can only be done by establishing local production. This will ultimately help bolster the Jeep brand, and solidify the resilience of U.S. jobs.
Jeep is one of our truly global brands with uniquely American roots. This will never change. So much so that we committed that the iconic Wrangler nameplate, currently produced in our Toledo, Ohio plant, will never see full production outside the United States.
Jeep assembly lines will remain in operation in the United States and will constitute the backbone of the brand.
It is inaccurate to suggest anything different.
Sergio MarchionneContact Automotive News