Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney repeated a false claim Thursday night that Chrysler Group may move all Jeep vehicle production to China, drawing criticism from the Obama campaign, which said the Michigan native had blatantly skewed a news wire story.
Romney's comments came the same day that the Detroit Free Press reported that 1,100 new Chrysler workers will begin making the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango SUVs at a plant in Detroit next week.
"I saw a story today that one of the great manufacturers in this state, Jeep, now owned by the Italians, is thinking of moving all production to China," Romney said during a rally in Defiance, Ohio, before 12,000 cheering supporters, according to several reports. "I will fight for every good job in America, I'm going to fight to make sure trade is fair, and if it's fair, America will win."
Romney apparently was referencing conservative bloggers who misrepresented a Bloomberg story from Monday that discussed Chrysler's decision to consider starting Jeep production in China, the world's largest new-vehicle market.
That story, while accurate, sparked a raft of other stories and blogs that incorrectly concluded that Chrysler might close plants or move Jeep production from the U.S. to China.
Gualberto Ranieri, Chrysler's vice president of communications, criticized those stories Thursday even before Romney made his comments.
"Let's set the record straight: Jeep has no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America to China," Ranieri said. "It's simply reviewing the opportunities to return Jeep output to China, for the world's largest auto market. U.S. Jeep assembly lines will continue to stay in operation."
In fact, Chrysler is investing $500 million at its Toledo North Assembly Plant and plans to add 1,105 new workers by the third quarter of 2013 to build an all-new SUV that will replace the Jeep Liberty.
Production of the new SUV will begin next summer and the hiring process for the new workers, who are scheduled to start by the next fall, has begun, said Chrysler spokeswoman Jodi Tinson.
Romney's comments were immediately skewered by auto industry observers and Romney's political opponents because Chrysler added about 7,000 workers in the U.S. and Canada since emerging from Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009.
The company is planning to add about 900 workers at its pickup plant in Warren, Mich., by March.
After Romney's remarks, the Obama campaign quickly retorted, emailing reporters with the following statement, according to Politico: "As Chrysler said today, 'Jeep has no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America to China.' And what's more: President Obama has fought on behalf of U.S. auto workers by challenging unfair Chinese tariffs on U.S. auto exports to China, including Jeeps, while Romney would have let the American auto industry and a million jobs go under."
The spat between Romney and Obama over the government's $85 billion bailout of General Motors and Chrysler intensified Monday during the final presidential debate.
Obama criticized Romney's November 2008 New York Times op-ed article titled, "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt" and said that under Romney, "we'd be buying cars from China instead of selling cars from China."
Analysts agree that the Chinese auto industry is not advanced enough to sell cars in the U.S. However, many U.S. car companies produce cars in China to sell to Chinese consumers.
During the debate, Romney said he was a "son of Detroit" and "I never said I would liquidate the industry." Obama came back: "Governor, the people of Detroit don't forget."
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