Barely a week after his election and two months from even taking office, President-elect Donald J. Trump is already making America great again by keeping American jobs in America. You know it’s true because he told us so on Twitter! There tonight, Trump bragged of negotiating with Ford to keep a Lincoln plant from moving from Kentucky to Mexico. Problem is, he’s full of shit, as always. These plants—there’s two of them—were never going to Mexico.
Here’s the tweet from our great leader:
And its follow-up:
First, let’s be clear which plant exactly Trump is referring to. There’s the Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville, which employs about 5,000 people and builds big trucks: the F-250–F-550, Super Duty pickups, Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator.
There’s also the Louisville Assembly Plant, which employs about 4,700 people and builds the Ford Escape and Lincoln MKC crossovers. Ford officials told us Trump means the latter, so we’re talking about the MKC here. That’s important.
Second, we must refer to the 2015 Ford contract with the United Auto Workers union, which outlines the automaker’s future plans. There it says MKC production will eventually leave Louisville and will “balance out to allow capacity for Escape,” the MKC’s platform mate.
“Balance out” is key here. That means MKC will go elsewhere—it doesn’t say where—only to increase capacity for the Escape. Ford confirmed as much in an email.
In other words, the plant itself wasn’t in danger of leaving. And neither were those jobs. Everything would have “balanced out” in the end, with the Escape being built by Americans in Kentucky and the MKC in Mexico.
This is just like what happened during the election. Trump repeatedly slammed Ford by claiming the automaker was shipping American jobs off to Mexico, at one point even explicitly saying Ford would “fire all of their employees in the United States.” Specifically Trump was referring to Ford’s plans to move small car production—the Fiesta, Focus and C-MAX hybrid—from a Michigan plant to Mexico.
The reason Ford is doing this is because Americans aren’t buying small cars now thanks to cheap gasoline, opting for bigger vehicles instead. It’s more effective for Ford to build those cars in Mexico.
But! All along, Ford has promised the Michigan plant would stay open and be re-tooled to build new models, specifically the new Bronco SUV and Ranger truck. Ford has also promised no American jobs would be lost as a result. Union officials have even said the move secures American jobs with more lucrative and in-demand trucks and SUVs than slow-selling small cars could. In fact, through the election, Ford repeatedly promised that it wasn’t sending any American jobs to Mexico.
Here’s the statement from Ford itself tonight:
Today, we confirmed with the President-elect that our small Lincoln utility vehicle made at the Louisville Assembly Plant will stay in Kentucky. We are encouraged that President-elect Trump and the new Congress will pursue policies that will improve U.S. competitiveness and make it possible to keep production of this vehicle here in the United States.
Notice the statement says it’s the “vehicle,” not the plant itself. Even says it twice. Closure of the Kentucky plant, or moving it to Mexico, has never been publicly up for discussion, as the Wall Street Journal also notes.
So when Trump claims he worked to keep the Lincoln plant in America, he’s talking about a plant that seemingly was never leaving in the first place. Which makes him wrong, either willfully or because he’s completely ignorant about the nuances of the auto industry and was quick to try and score a point before he was even in office.
Get excited for the next four years, everyone.
Update: As Automotive News and other outlets report today, Ford finally publicly confirmed that it was eyeing its Cuautitlan plant as the new site for Lincoln MKC production after 2019—but that’s just production, and not, as Trump said, moving the Kentucky plant to Mexico. Again, those jobs would “balance out” because the Kentucky plant still makes the much more popular Escape.
Indeed, Ford is making $700 million in investments at the Kentucky plant, so making it seem like the entire plant was at risk of being moved to Mexico is more than a little disingenuous. As is taking credit for this not happening now.