Ford Motor Co. went on the defensive during Monday night’s presidential debate after Republican nominee Donald Trump claimed the automaker planned to send “thousands of jobs” to Mexico.
“Our jobs are fleeing the country. They are going to Mexico,” Trump said during his first answer of the first debate. “So, Ford is leaving ― thousands of jobs. Leaving Michigan, leaving Ohio. They are all leaving.”
Ford announced earlier this month that it planned to spend $1.6 billion to construct a new factory to build small cars in Mexico’s San Luis Potosi. The new plant is expected to create 2,800 new jobs by 2020.
But the company and the union that represents its works said there are no plans to cut jobs in the U.S.
“Ford announced a plan to move production of the Ford Focus to Mexico so it can achieve financial success with that vehicle,” Christin Baker, a Ford spokeswoman, told The Huffington Post on Monday after the debate. “There is absolutely no impact on U.S. jobs.”
Rather, Ford said it plans to build two new vehicles at the Michigan factory where the hatchback and sedan were assembled.
“Ford is moving two new vehicles to the Michigan plant where the Focus is produced ― and the company’s U.S. workforce at that plant will be making those new vehicles,” Baker said. “Ford will continue to make cars, SUVs and trucks in the United States, as its American workers have for more than 100 years.”
The response echoed earlier statements by Ford CEO Mark Fields after Trump went after the company.
“It is really unfortunate the politics get in the way of the facts,” Fields said this month, adding that the company has created 28,000 jobs in the U.S. in the last five years. “Our investment here in the U.S. has never been stronger.”
Trump may be right to be skeptical.
Last year, during labor negotiations, the autoworkers union said Ford had committed to enough U.S. investment to cover as many as 8,500 new or saved jobs here. Still, as HuffPost previously reported, union chief Dennis Williams criticized the company’s Mexico investment in essentially the same way Trump did.
“For every investment in Mexico, it means jobs that could have and should have been available right here in the USA,” Williams said in an April statement. “This is another example of what’s wrong with NAFTA and why the TPP would be a disaster for the citizens of the United States. Companies continue to run to low-wage countries and import back into the United States. This is a broken system that needs to be fixed.”
Since then, the union brokered a new contract and changed its tune:
Trump’s own business record became a sticking point during the debate, as Democrat Hillary Clinton slammed his repeated bankruptcies and complex financial ties to foreign lenders.
“Sometimes there’s not a direct transfer of skills from business to government,” Clinton said. “But sometimes what happened in business would be really bad for government.”