A new Mitt Romney campaign ad seeks to undercut President Obama’s claim to be a champion of the auto industry by suggesting a Detroit automaker that received government bailout money plans to ship American jobs to China.
But the car company, Chrysler, says it is merely considering an expansion of Jeep production to China and has no plan to reduce its US workforce. In fact, the company has announced its intent to hire 1,100 additional workers in Detroit.
“Obama took GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy and sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China,’’ a narrator states in the ad. “Mitt Romney will fight for every American job.’’
The ad ran over the weekend in Ohio, a crucial swing state where Chrysler employs about 2,000 people. The Romney campaign did not announce the spot in a press release, as is its custom.
Campaigning in Defiance, Ohio last week, Romney launched the auto-oriented attack: “One of the great manufacturers in this state, Jeep, now owned by the Italians, is thinking of moving all production to China.’’
The charge appeared to be a misinterpretation of a Bloomberg News story, which reported last Monday that Fiat, the Turin-based majority owner of Chrysler, “plans to return Jeep output to China and may eventually make all of its models in that country.’’ The story referred to the company’s desire to manufacture vehicles locally in its expanding Chinese market, but the phrasing of the report’s first sentence caused some confusion among other news outlets.
“Despite clear and accurate reporting, the take has given birth to a number of stories making readers believe that Chrysler plans to shift all Jeep production to China from North America and therefore idle assembly lines and US workforce,’’ Chrysler spokesman Gualberto Ranieri wrote on the automaker’s website. “It is a leap that would be difficult even for professional circus acrobats.’’
The ad does not state explicitly, as Romney did on the campaign trail, that Chrysler is “moving all production to China.’’ But it connects Jeep’s manufacturing in China to Romney’s fighting for American jobs — enough to rile the Obama campaign.
“Mitt Romney’s new ad is a sure sign that he knows he’s in trouble in Ohio,’’ said Lis Smith, an Obama campaign spokeswoman. “When the American auto industry and a million workers’ jobs were on the line, Mitt Romney turned his back. Now he’s pretending it never happened and is trying to scare Ohioans by repeating a blatant falsehood that Chrysler is moving its Jeep operations to China.’’
The Obama campaign has often criticized Romney for a 2008 op-ed he authored in the New York Times, in which he argued against government bailouts for Detroit automakers, warning that “you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye’’ if the car companies receive such assistance.
But Romney did not recommend abandoning the US auto industry altogether. He argued for quintupled federal spending on energy research that would aid the auto industry, managed bankruptcies for troubled car makers and wrote that “the federal government should provide guarantees for post-bankruptcy financing and assure car buyers that their warranties are not at risk.’’