Two American carmakers have donated 100 pickup trucks and SUVs to assist with humanitarian aid in Ukraine. But an Instagram post makes the baseless claim that the vehicles were provided at U.S. taxpayers’ expense.
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, the U.S. has provided Ukraine with more than $15.1 billion in security assistance, and the State Department signaled the intent to provide Ukraine with $2.2 billion more to bolster Ukraine’s defense systems.
The Biden administration also has requested another $12 billion for humanitarian and military assistance to Ukraine.
But some conservatives have criticized the amount of aid provided by the U.S., and a recent social media post makes a claim — without evidence — about shipments of pickup trucks and SUVs to Ukraine.
On Sept. 20, an Instagram user posted photos of Ford trucks with the caption, “Your tax dollars at work, parking lot full of brand new ford diesels, no emission reduction systems at all, no def, no scr or dpf. Heading to Ukraine.”
A comment under the Instagram post by conservative activist Ryan Fournier reads, “We’ve already sent BILLIONS of dollars to this country with little to no transparency on how it’s being spent… meanwhile Zelensky is taking interviews, ringing the stock market bell and posting every Hollywood celeb he can. Now we’re sending them commercial vehicles with no emissions standards.”
But we could find no evidence the vehicles were being sent by the U.S. government or that they were they funded by Americans’ “tax dollars.”
Ford CEO Jim Farley tweeted on April 28, “As part of our efforts to support the Ukrainian people, we donated 50 @Ford Rangers. Proud of the hard work of our Ford team and partners at @Maersk for making this happen. I can confirm the last of the trucks arrived this week & are being put to work! #StandWithUkraine.”
A month earlier, Farley posted a statement on Twitter condemning the invasion: “We at @Ford are deeply concerned about the invasion of Ukraine by Russia and the safety of the Ukrainian people. Effective immediately, Ford is suspending our limited operations in Russia and taking action to support the Global Giving Ukraine Relief Fund.”
GM, which hadn’t produced vehicles in Russia since 2019, stopped its exports to the country in April as well. Both companies had partnered with the global shipping company Maersk to get the vehicles to Ukraine for humanitarian purposes.
GM spokesman George Svigos told us in a Sept. 21 email, “Following a request from the Ukrainian Government, GM donated 50 full-size SUVs to the Ukrainian Ministry of Infrastructure for humanitarian aid. The company has partnered with global shipping company Maersk, which donated the transport of the vehicles.”
Ford spokespersons told us in a phone interview that the vehicles shown in the photos on the Instagram post are Ford Super Duty trucks and not Ford Rangers, which were the vehicles donated to Ukraine.
We don’t know where the photos of the Super Duty trucks were taken. We tried to reach the person who posted the Instagram claim, but we did not hear back.
Because the Rangers were built in Ford’s Silverton plant in South Africa, the emissions-reducing equipment on vehicles would be based on South African standards rather than standards provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The Ford spokespersons also said it would not be unusual for exported vehicles to be sent without specific emissions-reducing equipment because the vehicles must align with the importing country’s regulations. In other words, cars produced in the U.S. with EPA-regulated equipment might not work in other countries due to different diesel standards.
Regarding the claims made in the post about the donated Ford trucks being sent without emission-reduction systems, Svigos said, “I can’t see that anyone has alleged this about the Tahoes.”
The Ford Rangers and Chevy Tahoes needed to be produced with whatever equipment aligns with Ukraine’s EURO-5 standard.
Both Ford and GM made monetary donations to Ukraine as well.
A group of Ukrainian, American and European volunteers in Ukraine have been buying civilian trucks from European nations and retrofitting them for use in battle, according to Business Insider. The vehicles, including Ford Rangers, are being purchased through crowdfunding, Business Insider reported.
We reached out to the State Department and Defense Department for response to the Instagram post, but we didn’t hear back.
We could find no evidence that American taxpayers were footing the bill for Ford and GM vehicles sent to Ukraine.
Daniel S. Hamilton, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and an expert on transatlantic trade, told us in an email, “Both GM and Ford have each donated 50 trucks directly to the government of Ukraine. As far as I know the US government has not been involved. GM and Ford are both private companies donating their products directly; there should be no impact on US taxpayers.”
Update, Oct. 3: The Instagram user, Kory Willis, got back to us. But Willis provided no evidence that the trucks were purchased by U.S. taxpayers, telling us that “where the funding is coming from is in question.”
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