DETROIT – Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said in an email to employees Tuesday that no U.S. production of Jeep vehicles will be moved to China and that U.S. production of Jeeps “will constitute the backbone of the brand,” contradicting Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who five days earlier had repeated a false report that suggested Jeep production could be moved to China.
Without citing Romney by name, Marchionne said Chrysler remains committed to “investing to improve and expand our entire U.S. operations, including our Jeep facilities,” according to a company email obtained by the Detroit Free Press.
“It is inaccurate to suggest anything different,” Marchionne said.
Romney, in a rally Thursday in Ohio, said he “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.” His campaign later released a new TV ad saying that Jeep would make vehicles in China, but dropped the claim that U.S. jobs would be moved to China.
Obama’s campaign released its own ad attacking Romney for his auto industry policies, including his 2008 New York Times op-ed piece headlined “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.”
In his company email, Marchionne confirmed the company’s previous statements that it plans to eventually restart vehicle production in China because the market “would not otherwise be accessible” without making vehicles there. Chinese regulations make it very difficult to import foreign vehicles.
“This ultimately will help bolster the Jeep brand, and solidify the resilience of U.S. jobs,” Marchionne said. “Jeep is one of our truly global brands with uniquely American roots. This will never change.”
Chrysler is investing $1.7 billion to produce the successor to the Jeep Liberty sport-utility vehicle, including a $500 million expansion with 1,100 jobs at a second shift at the company’s assembly plant in Toledo, Ohio. The automaker also has added 2,000 jobs since June 2009 at its Jefferson North Assembly plant in Detroit, including a third crew that started last week.
Overall, Marchionne said, the company has added more than 11,200 jobs in the U.S. since its government-financed bankruptcy reorganization in 2009.