Final Inspection

Keeping Score Between Romney, Obama and Chrysler: Everyone Loses

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The back-and-forth over misinformation about Jeep’s intent in China gets ugly with attack ads and executive expletives.

The tennis match between U.S. Republicans (and their supporters) and the U.S. auto industry continues with no end in sight.

I predicted in a previous blog that the misperception that Chrysler would be moving Jeep production to China would wear on after Election Day. Less than a week away now, looks like I could be right.

For the umpteenth time if you haven’t been briefed already: Chrysler, which has repaid government loans given in 2009, is not moving production of Jeeps to China. The auto maker, however, is considering restarting production in China, as there’s a business case to be made for selling SUVs in the market.

During a conference call earlier this week, Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne noted that the Chrysler 300 sedan and the Grand Voyager minivan (we call it the Grand Caravan here) do well in China. This, folks, is a good thing. It means Chrysler is making money in places outside North America.

Still lost in translation is the whole Jeep-in-China thing. It started – and should have ended – when Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney told a crowd in Ohio (where most Jeeps are produced) that jobs would be moved abroad.

The Romney campaign stepped it up a notch this week when it released a television ad in Ohio, always a swing state during presidential elections, reaffirming the message. Here’s that video:

Not only did the campaign to re-elect President Obama refute these claims, Chrysler itself did so after top communications spokesperson Gualberto Rainieri blogged on the subject, making Chrysler’s intentions clear. His words again: “Let’s set the record straight: Jeep has no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America to China.”

It wasn’t enough for Chrysler, as the Romney campaign reiterated the Jeep-to-China message. Chrysler posted an email to employees directly from Marchionne to its blog this week. Marchionne’s words: “Chrysler Group’s production plans for the Jeep brand have become the focus of public debate. I feel obliged to unambiguously restate our position: Jeep production will not be moved from the United States to China.”

UAW President Bob King weighed in through an editorial in USA Today, standing on the side of Chrysler: “Though the fact-checkers and media unanimously shot down Romney’s claims, no one was more stunned at the sheer craziness of Romney’s statement than the workers at the Jeep factory,” noting that Chrysler has invested $500 million in one of its Jeep plants in Ohio.

The next volley came from troublemaker Donald Trump, an unabashed GOP supporter who demanded proof of Obama’s passport and college transcripts last week. Apparently out of the loop, he tweets, “Obama is a terrible negotiator. He bails out Chrysler and now Chrysler wants to send all Jeep manufacturing to China -- and will!”

That tweet sparked an angry reply from Chrysler chief designer and SRT President and CEO Ralph Gilles. Usually friendly toward auto enthusiasts, Gilles shot back directly at Trump, “you are full of s**t!”

Even as I type, the Obama campaign has released its own attack ad, again dismissing the Jeep-to-China sentiment pumped out by Romney. Here’s that video.

Don’t you wish Election Day were tomorrow?

It’s hard enough to keep score between all parties involved, but the clear loser is the American public, which repeatedly is assaulted with partisan attacks and also lost in confusion as this wears on.

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WardsAuto editors share insights and observations on the global auto industry.

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Dave Zoia

As Editorial Director, I oversee much of what goes into WardsAuto.com, enjoying a ringside seat that lets me observe up close just about every facet of the industry worldwide. I have covered the...

James M. Amend

James Amend is an associate editor at WardsAuto.com, covering day-to-day business and product news at General Motors. He also leads coverage of regulatory and environmental issues, as well as the...
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