Donald Trump told a Detroit newspaper that he plans to broaden his recent criticism of Ford Motor Co. to include other automakers that are expanding production in Mexico instead of the U.S.
Trump, the leading Republican presidential candidate, said automakers can reduce labor costs by moving plants from Michigan to parts of the U.S. where wages are lower.
“You can go to different parts of the United States and then ultimately you’d do full-circle -- you’ll come back to Michigan because those guys are going to want their jobs back even if it is less,” Trump told The Detroit News in a telephone interview. “We can do the rotation in the United States -- it doesn’t have to be in Mexico.”
He said workers in Michigan would agree to better deals after the state “loses a couple of plants.”
Trump attacked Ford, which has announced plans to add 3,800 jobs in Mexico with a $2.5 billion investment in engine and transmission plants, during a speech in Michigan on Tuesday. Trump suggested that Ford should “let the illegals drive the cars and trucks right into our country.”
He has proposed a 35 percent tax on vehicles and parts that Ford imports from Mexico.
Ford today said CEO Mark Fields responded in an email to Trump detailing its recent investments in the U.S.
“Mark sent Mr. Trump an e-mail with information about Ford, including the $6.2 billion we have invested in our U.S. plants since 2011 and our hiring of nearly 25,000 U.S. employees,” Ford said in a statement to Automotive News. “Mr. Trump thanked us for the information and said that Ford is a great company and that he is a Ford customer. We appreciate his kind words.”
Trump told The Detroit News it was a “very, very nice letter” but said it didn’t change his opinion. Trump has disclosed an investment worth between $600,000 and $1.25 million in Ford Motor Credit, the newspaper previously reported.
Other Mexico plants
Ford is only one of numerous automakers that have revealed major expansion plans in Mexico. General Motors is spending $5 billion there over six years, Kia Motors is opening a $1 billion plant there next year, and Volkswagen AG’s Audi division is building a $1.3 billion plant there, among others.
Asked why he had singled out Ford, “Trump said he wasn’t familiar with other automakers’ expansion plans. He planned to mention other automakers, he said, and asked The Detroit News to send information about them,” the paper said.
Mexico is a major issue in this year’s contract talks between the Detroit 3 automakers and the UAW. Union members hope to keep the automakers from shifting work south of the border in search of cheaper labor. But the automakers say it’s difficult to build small cars profitably in the U.S., particularly as low gasoline prices make those vehicles less appealing to consumers.
In addition to the engines and transmissions, Ford is expected to begin making its Focus compact car in Mexico several years from now. The automaker recently said its Michigan Assembly Plant would stop building the Focus and C-Max in 2018, without specifying where production would move or what would replace them. Executives have said the Michigan plant will not close.
At the same time, Ford this week started production of medium-duty trucks at its plant in Avon Lake, Ohio. It previously built the trucks in Mexico. That move, announced in early 2014, involved a $168 million investment and allowed more than 1,000 workers who used to build Econoline vans at the plant to keep their jobs.
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