News Column

Chrysler Exec Slams Donald Trump Over Jeep Tweet

Nov. 1, 2012

Nathan Bomey

Donald Trump

Frustration with the politicization of the U.S. auto industry's comeback story generated a pointed response from a top Chrysler executive today.

Billionaire Donald Trump, who supports Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, today tweeted that President Barack "Obama is a terrible negotiator."

Trump added: "He bails out Chrysler and now Chrysler wants to send all Jeep manufacturing to China--and will!"

The comment drew a heated tweet from Chrysler Group Vice President for Product Design Ralph Gilles: "you are full of (expletive)!"

@realdonaldtrump you are full of shit!

-- Ralph Gilles (@RalphGilles) November 1, 2012

Obama is a terrible negotiator. He bails out Chrysler and now Chrysler wants to send all Jeep manufacturing to China--and will!

-- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 1, 2012

Gilles is viewed as a well-respected and talented executive who easily could have left Chrysler when it was struggling but opted to stay with the troubled automaker as it went through Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

He joined Chrysler in 1992 as a designer and rose to vice president of design by 2008. Gilles, a car enthusiast, also spearheaded the redevelopment of the 2013 SRT Viper, which is being shipped to dealers now.

It's the latest iteration of a spat that started a week ago when Romney said in Ohio he had seen a report that suggested Chrysler could move all Jeep production to China.

Chrysler quickly rejected the claim as inaccurate, and some analysts have literally laughed at the suggestion.

Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne told employees in an email Tuesday that all U.S. Jeep production would stay in place and would "constitute the backbone of the brand."

"It is inaccurate to suggest anything different," he said.

Romney's campaign has backed off suggestions that Chrysler would move U.S. jobs to China, but maintained its argument that Chrysler's decision to consider new production in China was an example of Obama's failed leadership on manufacturing policies. And the campaign released a radio ad in Ohio markets slamming Obama for Chrysler's plans and General Motors' China growth.

Obama's campaign has pounded Romney this week over the Chrysler comments and ads, with Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday calling the accusations an "outrageous lie."

On Tuesday, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina tweeted that "GM & Chrysler are strong American companies, creating American jobs. Gov Romney is launching false attacks about them."

GM and Chrysler have largely tried to avoid the political spotlight in recent months, even banning political candidates from their plants for the duration of the campaign.

But the latest developments have drawn them into the discussion more directly.

"We've clearly entered some parallel universe during these last few days," GM spokesman Greg Martin told the Free Press on Tuesday. "No amount of campaign politics at its cynical worst will diminish our record of creating jobs in the U.S. and repatriating profits back to this country."

Source: (c)2012 the Detroit Free Press. Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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