Loading…
Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Current Weather
Loading Current Weather....
Published: Thursday, 11/1/2012

Auto toxin

In the fi­nal few days of the pres­i­den­tial con­test, Mitt Rom­ney ev­i­dently rec­og­nizes that his op­po­si­tion to the fed­eral res­cue of Gen­eral Mo­tors and Chrysler is costing him voter sup­port he needs in Ohio and Mich­i­gan. So the Re­pub­li­can nom­i­nee is con­duct­ing an ex­er­cise in de­cep­tion about auto-in­dus­try is­sues that is re­mark­able even by the stan­dards of his cam­paign.

At an ap­pear­ance last week in De­fi­ance, Mr. Rom­ney an­nounced that “Jeep, now owned by the Ital­ians, is think­ing of mov­ing all pro­duc­tion to China.” That as­ser­tion was based on an am­big­u­ously worded news re­port.

Read more Blade editorials

Chrysler, which owns Jeep and in which the Ital­ian auto­maker Fiat has a ma­jor­ity stake, quickly de­nied the re­port. A com­pany spokes­man said Mr. Rom­ney’s rhe­tor­i­cal leap “would be dif­fi­cult even for pro­fes­sional cir­cus ac­ro­bats.” But the Rom­ney cam­paign launched an ad in Ohio that claimed that Pres­i­dent Obama, who pre­sided over the auto bail­out, “sold Chrysler to Ital­ians who are go­ing to build Jeeps in China.”

Chrysler CEO Ser­gio Mar­chionne re­moved all doubt about his com­pany’s in­ten­tions this week in an email to em­ploy­ees: “Jeep pro­duc­tion will not be moved from the United States to China,” he said. “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.”

He ac­knowl­edged that Chrysler in­tends “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.” The com­pany also wants to avoid heavy im­port du­ties. But that’s a long way from Mr. Rom­ney’s in­sin­u­a­tion that the auto­maker is ship­ping jobs from Toledo to China.

Mr. Mar­chionne noted that Chrysler is in­vest­ing $500 mil­lion in its Toledo as­sem­bly com­plex and plans to add 1,100 jobs there by next year, largely to build a suc­ces­sor to the Jeep Lib­erty sport-util­ity ve­hi­cle. He vowed “that the iconic Wran­gler name­plate, cur­rently pro­duced in our Toledo, Ohio, plant, will never see full pro­duc­tion out­side the United States.”

Regard­less, a new ra­dio ad for the Rom­ney cam­paign that has got­ten heavy play in Toledo asks whether the Pres­i­dent bailed out the do­mes­tic auto in­dus­try for “Ohio — or China?” It asks: “What hap­pened to the prom­ises made to au­to­work­ers in Toledo and through­out Ohio — the same hard-work­ing men and women who were told that Obama’s auto bail­out would help them?”

The new ad also as­sails the other bailed-out auto­maker by claim­ing that “un­der Pres­i­dent Obama, GM cut 15,000 Amer­i­can jobs, but they are plan­ning to dou­ble the num­ber of cars built in China, which means 15,000 more jobs for China.” A GM spokes­man told the Detroit Free Press that “we’ve clearly en­tered some par­al­lel uni­verse dur­ing these last few days ... No amount of cam­paign pol­i­tics at its cyn­i­cal worst will di­min­ish our record of cre­at­ing jobs in the U.S. and re­pa­tri­at­ing prof­its back to this coun­try.”

Mr. Rom­ney, who has changed po­si­tions on too many other is­sues to count, clings to his in­sis­tence that Mr. Obama should not have in­vested tax­payer money in help­ing Chrysler and GM emerge from a man­aged bank­ruptcy. He says he would have been will­ing to pro­vide fed­eral “guar­an­tees” of pri­vate in­vest­ment in the trou­bled auto­makers.

Steven Rat­tner, the Pres­i­dent’s chief ad­viser on the auto bail­out, told The Blade’s ed­i­to­rial page this week that “there was no pri­vate money” on of­fer dur­ing the depths of the Great Re­ces­sion to pre­serve ei­ther car com­pany. He added that Re­pub­li­can Pres­i­dent George W. Bush “un­der­stood that” and launched the bail­out pro­cess as a re­sult.

Mr. Rat­tner noted that the bail­out was po­lit­i­cally un­pop­u­lar at the time, and that there was no guar­an­tee it would work. But he said the GM job cuts cited in the Rom­ney ad oc­curred be­fore the bail­out, and since then the auto sec­tor has been re­spon­si­ble for 20 per­cent of the na­tion’s job growth. With­out it, he added, both auto­makers would have col­lapsed.

The sub­se­quent suc­cess of both GM and Chrysler has made the fed­eral res­cue “a real win-win,” Mr. Rat­tner said. Polls sug­gest that vot­ers, es­pe­cially in Ohio and Mich­i­gan, agree.

Mr. Rom­ney claims to have a “plan to help the auto in­dus­try,” which he does not de­tail. He plays up his Detroit roots, re­mind­ing vot­ers that his father was not only a beloved gov­er­nor of Mich­i­gan, but also the chief ex­ec­u­tive of a Detroit auto­maker.

But Mr. Rom­ney’s own words make clear he is no friend of the auto in­dus­try, on which Ohio re­lies for one of ev­ery eight jobs. Vot­ers in Ohio and Mich­i­gan — and the na­tion — need to re­mem­ber that.



Guidelines: Please keep your comments smart and civil. Don't attack other readers personally, and keep your language decent. If a comment violates these standards or our privacy statement or visitor's agreement, click the "X" in the upper right corner of the comment box to report abuse. To post comments, you must be a Facebook member. To find out more, please visit the FAQ.

Related stories