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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Trump’s Bogus Boast on Ford

Donald Trump took multiple bows for getting Ford to change its plans to build new manufacturing facilities in Mexico, and instead build a “massive plant” in Ohio. The problem: Ford says it hasn’t changed its plans at all.

After tweeting his accomplishment over the weekend, Trump doubled down on the claim during a town hall event that aired Oct. 26 on NBC’s “Today” show. The Republican presidential candidate said his constant campaign badgering embarrassed Ford into building a proposed plant in Ohio rather than in Mexico, as originally planned. “I should get credit for that,” Trump crowed (starting around the 4:55 mark of the third video).

Trump, Oct. 26: I’m going to renegotiate our trade deals. I’m going to bring our jobs back. I’m going to bring our manufacturing back. I’ll give you an example. … Look, Mexico took a Ford plant. I’ve been very tough on the Ford, you’ve heard me talking about Ford. I heard last night that Ford is moving back to the United States. They may not do that deal. I get credit for that. I should get credit for that. Somebody wrote last night, “Can you imagine what he could do if he was president?” Ford was going to build this massive plant. I brought it up at so many speeches, and frankly, I think I embarrassed them. But Ford now is going to build a big, massive plant in the United States. And every single person, even my harshest critics, gave me credit for that. I’m going to do that times a thousand.

The backstory: Back in April, Ford announced a $2.5 billion plan to build a new engine plant in Chihuahua and a new transmission plant in Guanajuato, and to expand an existing diesel engine plant in Chihuahua. Ford said the investment would create 3,800 direct jobs.

Trump repeatedly criticized that deal on the campaign trail, vowing that he would threaten to put a 35 percent import tax on Ford unless it moved the plant to the United States. But as we have written before, only Congress can impose taxes and such a tax would violate the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Here’s how Trump played out the imaginary scenario during a Sept. 14 speech in Dallas (starting at the 49:43 mark).

Trump, Sept. 14: What would President Trump do? So I’d call the head of Ford, or whatever company, but I’d call the head of Ford. I’d say, “Congratulations, I understand you’re building a massive plant in Mexico and you’re taking a lot of jobs away from us in Michigan and other places. Now, I don’t like that. I don’t like it. I just don’t like it.” And he’ll say, “Well, Mr. President. It’s wonderful, wonderful for the economy. Oh, great, just great.” It’s wonderful for whose economy? Not for our economy. … So, what I’d say is the following: “I don’t want you to do that. And if you do it, you’re not going to have any cars coming across the border unless you pay a 35 percent tax.” That’s it. That’s it. No, that’s it! And they’re going to say — they’re going to say to me, “Mr. President, please, please, please.” Now, I guarantee you. Let’s say I make this call at 9:00 in the morning, by 5:00 in the afternoon, I think the deal is done, they move back to the United States.

In a series of tweets on Oct. 25, Trump claimed his words worked.

“Word is that Ford Motor, because of my constant badgering at packed events, is going to cancel their deal to go to Mexico and stay in U.S.,” Trump tweeted. He then followed up with, “Do you think I will get credit for keeping Ford in U.S. Who cares, my supporters know the truth. Think what can be done as president!”


But Ford hasn’t changed its plans to build new $2.5 billion facilities in Mexico, according to a company spokeswoman.

“As part of our global manufacturing plan, we announced $2.5 billion investment in two Mexico facilities to build a new generation of engines and transmissions,” Christin Tinsworth Baker, a spokeswoman for Ford told us via email. “These engines and transmissions will support Ford’s global product lineup. Our plans for that investment have not changed.”

So what is Trump talking about? His campaign did not respond to our request for information, but one of Trump’s tweets linked to a story on Prntly.com, a political blog, that ran under the headline “Trump successfully pressures Ford to move Mexican plant to Ohio.” The article cites CNN Money as its source, but that’s not what CNN Money actually reported in August. Rather, the article, which ran under the headline “Ford shifts truck production from Mexico to Ohio,” was about the transfer of some Ford pickup assembly work that was moved from Mexico to Ohio.

That $168 million investment to shift production of 2016 Ford F-650 and F-750 trucks from Mexico to Avon Lake, Ohio, was announced by Ford in March 2014. But its roots go back much further than that. Back in 2011, the Toledo Blade reported that Ford received a $15 million tax incentive package, over 15 years, that was projected to in-source jobs from Mexico and save 1,400 jobs in Ohio. Interestingly, Ford executives credited Ohio Gov. John Kasich, another Republican candidate for president, for making the deal happen. Ford announced the kickoff of that Ohio production on Aug. 12, triggering the CNN Money story.

In fact, CNN Money reported on Oct. 26 that “Donald Trump is wrong about Ford and Mexico.”

Ford Motor Co. has released a statement saying, “Ford has not spoken with Mr. Trump, nor have we made any changes to our plans. We decided to move the F-650 and F-750 medium-duty trucks to Ohio Assembly in 2011, long before any candidates announced their intention to run for U.S. president. We are proud that Ford has invested $10.2 billion in our U.S. plants since 2011 and hired nearly 25,000 U.S. employees. Overall, more than 80 percent of our North American investment annually is in the U.S., and 97 percent of our North American engineering is conducted in the U.S.”

In other words, Trump should not get credit for any of that. The proposed Ford plants in Mexico that Trump has been talking about throughout his campaign are moving forward as planned.

We should note that this is the third time this month we have fact-checked something Trump “heard.” Then, as now, Trump heard incorrectly.