Unlike Trump indicated in his tweet, however, the company was never planning on moving an entire plant to Mexico.
On Thursday evening, President-elect Donald Trump tweeted that he received a call from Ford chairman Bill Ford indicating that the automaker had chosen not to move an entire plant from Kentucky to Mexico.
As many reports rightly indicated, that’s not entirely true. Ford never intended to close and move its Louisville Assembly Plant — to which Trump is referring — to Mexico. The plant currently employs a little more than 4,700 workers.
The Detroit-based automaker was only considering moving its Lincoln MKC production — only one of the vehicles manufactured at that plant — to its factory in Cuautitlan, Mexico, according to a Ford spokesperson.
As part of a four-year contract with the United Auto Workers that Ford signed in 2015, the automaker was making room to produce the new Ford Escape at its Louisville plant and expected to “balance out” its MKC production. But now, the company has chosen to keep its MKC production in Kentucky.
Trump wasn’t wrong about his influence over that decision, however. In his tweets, he strongly suggests he had something to do with Ford’s move.
When asked whether Trump’s tweets were correct in suggesting he influenced Ford’s decision to keep MKC production in Kentucky, a spokesperson said, “You are right.”
The company also confirmed Bill Ford did speak to Trump yesterday, as he indicated in his tweets.
“The potential tax and regulatory policies that will be pursued can help make production in the U.S. more competitive,” the spokesperson said when pressed, quoting from a comment the company was providing to reporters.
(We’ve explicitly asked whether the decision was made post-election and what specific policies affected the move and are waiting to hear back.)
It’s not clear whether Ford planned to continue MKC production by the time the contract expired in 2019.
Here’s Ford’s full statement, which confirms the company spoke to Trump on Thursday:
“We continue to engage with President-elect Trump’s team – and the new Congress – as they shape the policy agenda for 2017. We have shared our commitment to continue investing in the U.S. and creating American jobs – building on the $12 billion we have invested in our U.S. plants and the nearly 28,000 U.S. jobs Ford has created in the past five years. Ford continues to employ more American autoworkers and produce more American made vehicles than anyone.
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.”
This is happening just a few days after UAW president Dennis Williams said he was willing to work with Trump on a number of issues and reasserted the union’s opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement — a position Trump has touted throughout his campaign and has used to criticize Ford’s decision to move some of its vehicle production to Mexico.
“We agree Nafta either needs to be renegotiated or ended,” Williams said.
Ahead of Trump’s victory, Ford took the then-Republican nominee head on when he criticized the automaker for moving jobs to Mexico during the presidential debates, which he often did. Ford CEO Mark Fields went so far as to dismiss Trump in an interview with CNN.
“It’s really unfortunate when politics get in the way of the facts,” Fields said.
The automaker has softened its tone against Trump since the election, however. On numerous occasions, a Ford spokesperson has said that the automaker is “encouraged” by Trump’s policies and even congratulated the president-elect.
“We congratulate the president-elect and new governors, members of Congress and elected officials across all levels of the U.S. government,” a spokesperson told Recode in the days after the election. “We agree with Mr. Trump that it is really important to unite the country — and we look forward to working together to support economic growth and jobs.”
It’s a clear move on the part of the automaker to appease the incoming president who has made Ford the poster child for what is wrong with manufacturing in the United States.