Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney caused an uproar Monday with a television spot entitled “Who will do more?” concerning the U.S. auto industry.
In the spot, which is aimed primarily at voters in Michigan and Ohio, states where the auto industry employs thousands of workers, Romney notes that President Obama “sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China.”
Obama’s campaign surrogates, led by former President Bill Clinton, instantly jumped on that statement and claimed Romney meant Chrysler plans to move Jeep entirely out of the U.S. and to China.
Clinton told reporters yesterday that “I saw the reports of Governor Romney’s latest ad saying that the president had allowed Jeep to move to China.”
Then Clinton claimed that “this morning, before [Obama] left Florida and went back to Washington, he said, ‘You know, of all the things Governor Romney has said that probably hurts my feelings the most.'”
But that’s not what the Romney spot said. Over the weekend, Romney had made reference to a news report that was inaccurately interpreted in the blogosphere as claiming that Jeep was being moved entirely to China, but that’s not what the TV spot said.
In any case, Chrysler issued a statement saying it was considering resuming production of Jeeps in China that had been suspended in 2009, pending the outcome of the bailout and sale of the company to Fiat.
“Let’s set the record straight: Jeep has no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America to China,” Chrysler said.
“It’s simply reviewing the opportunities to return Jeep output to China for the world’s largest auto market,” the company said.
In fact there is yet another wrinkle to the Jeep story because, according to Autoblog, Fiat plans to begin building Jeeps in Italy on the same assembly line on which it builds Alfa Romeos, the storied marque it acquired years ago.
The Italian-built Jeeps will mostly be exported to the U.S. for sale here, whereas the Jeeps to be built in China will almost certainly all be sold in Asia.
Confused? Don’t be. Automakers around the world have for several decades been rationalizing production by moving specific models to facilities that can most efficiently and profitably produce them, regardless of where they are located.
That is a major – though not the only – reason why the Japanese, South Korean and German companies have built major facilities here in the U.S. and why U.S. companies have built major facilities in places like Mexico and China.
It’s a trend that almost certainly won’t stop regardless of who occupies the White House for the next four years.