March 23, 2023

The Caucus: Chrysler Chief: Jeep Production Isn’t Moving to China

Chrysler’s chief executive on Tuesday strongly refuted claims that production of Jeeps would shift to China, an insistence that cast further doubt on the Romney campaign’s recent efforts to undercut President Obama’s support for the auto industry as it fights for Ohio’s 18 electoral votes.

In an e-mail to employees, the chief executive, Sergio Marchionne, said that Jeep’s commitment to the United States was unequivocal. “I feel obliged to unambiguously restate our position: Jeep production will not be moved from the United States to China,” he wrote. “It is inaccurate to suggest anything different.”

Mr. Marchionne’s response — an unusually forceful gesture from the chief executive of a major American corporation a week before Election Day — came as the politics of the auto bailout took center stage in the presidential campaign.

The Romney campaign has come under considerable criticism in recent days for taking liberties with the facts in a new television commercial that suggests Jeep, a recipient of federal bailout money, will soon outsource American jobs to China. Chrysler, Jeep’s parent company, does not in fact have plans to cut its American work force but is considering opening a facility in China where it would produce Jeeps for sale locally.

Mr. Marchionne said that those efforts would only bolster the strength of Chrysler in the United States, not undermine it.

“Jeep is one of our truly global brands with uniquely American roots. This will never change,” he said.

The politics of the auto bailout have become a vexing problem for Mr. Romney as he competes fiercely with President Obama for Ohio. Mr. Obama carried the state in 2008 with just 51.2 percent of the vote and has remained ahead of Mr. Romney in many recent polls, a strength that is due in some measure to the rebound of the auto industry.

Mr. Romney opposed the bailout, most famously in a New York Times op-ed that carried the headline “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.” Mr. Romney did not write the headline; the newspaper did. But even his supporters in the Midwest have questioned his logic in arguing that Chrysler and General Motors should have been denied federal assistance, which he deemed at the time “a handout.”

The Romney campaign has insisted that its most recent ad — which is carefully worded enough that it is not factually inaccurate — merely states the truth: that Jeeps are not currently made in China but will be soon. But the ad makes no mention of the point Mr. Marchionne and others have made, which is that no American jobs will be lost.

The Romney campaign has shown no signs of backing away from the ad. In fact, it is now repeating the same claims in a new radio commercial.

The memo from Mr. Marchionne is below:

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