DETROIT — President Donald Trump on Thursday called Ford Motor Co. and its workers a “national treasure” for its effort to manufacture 50,000 ventilators by early July in response to the coronavirus crisis and recent efforts to reopen its assembly plants.
The president, choosing not to wear a mask in front of cameras, toured the Rawsonville plant where Ford assembles its Model A-E ventilator. He was joined by Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford, CEO Jim Hackett and Jim Baumbick, vice president of the company’s enterprise product line management.
Speaking to a crowd of workers, Trump congratulated the automaker for its role in providing medical equipment and thanked automakers for efforts to restart vehicle production earlier this week.
“I want to commend Ford, along with General Motors, General Electric, Fiat Chrysler and so many other companies, a lot of them in this area, for blazing a trail to safely restart America’s economic engines,” he said. “I want to thank you all for leading America back to work.”
Trump mentioned the upcoming Ford Bronco SUV, calling it a “big winner,” and saying Ford planned to hire 2,000 workers to build it at the nearby Michigan Assembly Plant. The vehicle is expected to go on sale early next year.
Trump also referenced company founder Henry Ford having "good bloodlines."
Bill Ford, the great-grandson of Henry Ford, praised Trump for his efforts to “move the economy forward,” including negotiating an update to the North American Free Trade Agreement.
“We’ve spoken many times over the years, and while we don’t always agree on every issue, he has always considered our opinion,” Ford said.
Ford was among the automakers the Justice Department probed over a fuel economy pact with California. Trump, who has softened federal rules and sought to revoke that state’s authority to set its own standards, called executives who oppose his efforts “foolish.” The Justice Department closed its investigation.
Shot at UAW, Biden
Trump in his speech took a shot at the UAW and his likely Democratic rival in the 2020 election, wondering aloud why the union recently endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden.
“I don’t know how the hell these unions aren’t endorsing Trump instead of the standard Democrat,” he said.
UAW President Rory Gamble earlier this week said the union was “proud to welcome President Trump” to the Rawsonville plant, although Gamble was not seen during the tour.
Gamble, the first African-American president of the UAW, was also not part of a roundtable earlier in the day between Trump and local African-American community leaders including John James, a candidate for one of Michigan’s Senate seats.
All of Ford’s executives wore masks during the public portions of Trump’s tour, which the automaker requires in its facilities. Asked about not wearing a mask, Trump said he wore one in another area “where they preferred it.”
He said he took off the mask in front of reporters because “he was given a choice.”
Ford, in a statement, said Bill Ford encouraged Trump to wear a mask, and that he did in a private portion of his tour where he looked at three GT supercars.
A statement from the UAW made note of the president not wearing a mask for a portion of his visit.
"Despite some in the President’s entourage not following health and safety protocols in the plant today, we want to make it clear that the CDC guidelines have not changed and it is vitally important that our members continue to follow the protocols that have been put in place to safeguard them, their families and their communities," the union's statement said.