The real story behind that exaggerated Ford tweet from Donald Trump – Washington Post

 In Business

President-elect Donald Trump speaks to the media following a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in Washington on Nov. 10. (Nicholas Kamm/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)

During a conference call with analysts Thursday morning, Ford Motor Company Chief Financial Officer Bob Shanks was asked how President-elect Donald Trump’s trade policies might affect the automaker’s decisions on investing in Mexico or in the United States.

Shanks said that he couldn’t speculate on trade. He pivoted, instead, to Trump’s plans to cut taxes and spend more on infrastructure, saying they could “build a stronger, more vibrant, growing economy and provide an environment where it makes economic sense to build back up manufacturing jobs here.”

Less than 11 hours later, Trump was bragging on Twitter that he helped stop Ford from moving an entire factory from Kentucky to Mexico.

The tweets were exaggerated: Ford’s contract with the United Auto Workers prevents it from shutting down the factory in question, the Louisville Assembly Plant, or from laying off workers there without engaging further talks with the union. The company clarified that it had merely decided not to move production of a single vehicle, the Lincoln MKC, out of Kentucky.

President-elect Donald Trump tweeted that he had played a major role in getting Ford to keep a Lincoln production plant in Kentucky from moving to Mexico. But Ford has repeatedly said it has no plans to close any U.S. plants. (Reuters)

At the same time, the company said Friday that the coming Trump presidency did give it an incentive to keep Lincoln MKC in Kentucky. “We are encouraged the economic policies he will pursue will help improve U.S. competitiveness,” Ford spokeswoman Christin Baker said, “and make it possible to keep production of this vehicle here in the U.S.”

The events stirred a flurry of confusion on social media that lasted through Friday, and they underscored two fast-emerging realities for U.S. business in the coming Trump era. It appears that large companies such as Ford could, at least to some degree, be set to invest more domestically if Trump and Congress cut its taxes. It also appears that Trump will seize opportunities to claim credit for those investments, and to cast them as victories even if they result in no new U.S. jobs.

In the case of Ford in Louisville, “No one really thought that plant would close,” said Bernard Swiecki, a senior automotive analyst at the Center for Automotive Research in Michigan, who tracks North American automakers’ investment decisions. “These moves are not at all akin to saving the plant. That was never under consideration by anyone.”

What was known publicly before Thursday’s developments was that Ford had already announced plans to move production of the Lincoln MKC out of Louisville. Its contract with the UAW called for it to make up that lost production — and ensure no jobs would be lost in Louisville — by producing more Ford Escapes, the other vehicle assembled in the plant. The Escape is the far more popular model: Ford has sold more than 258,000 of them this year through October, compared with just under 21,000 MKCs.

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