AP NEWS

AUTOS

April 2, 2019

TRUMP: “We are bringing a lot of those car companies back. ... They are pouring back in.” —Michigan rally.

TRUMP: “We’re opening up car plants in Michigan again for the first time in decades. They’re coming in, really pouring in. ... And this has been happening pretty much since I’ve been president. It’s really amazing what’s going on ... We’ve brought back so much industry, so many car companies to Michigan, so we’re very happy.” — remarks Thursday while departing for Michigan.

THE FACTS: There is very little truth in those remarks.

The only automaker announcing plans to reopen a plant in Michigan is Fiat Chrysler, which is restarting an old engine plant to build three-row SUVs. It’s been planning to do so since before Trump was elected. GM is even closing two Detroit-area factories: one that builds cars and another that builds transmissions.

Automakers have made announcements about new models being built in the state, but no other factories have been reopened. Ford stopped building the Focus compact car in the Detroit suburb of Wayne last year, but it’s being replaced by the manufacture of a small pickup and a new SUV. That announcement was made in December 2016, before Trump took office.

GM, meantime, is closing factories in Ohio and Maryland.

Trump can plausibly claim that his policies have encouraged some activity in the domestic auto industry. Corporate tax cuts freed more money for investment, and potential tariff increases on imported vehicles are an incentive to build in the U.S.

But automakers have not been “pouring in” at all, as he persistently claims, and when expansion does happen, it’s not all because of him.

Fiat Chrysler has been planning the SUVs for several years and has been looking at expansion in the Detroit area, where it has unused building space and an abundant, trainable automotive labor force.

Normally it takes at least three years for an automaker to plan a new vehicle, which is the case with the three-row Jeep Grand Cherokee and the larger Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer SUVs that will fill the restarting Detroit-area plant and an existing one. Several years ago then-CEO Sergio Marchionne said the Wagoneer would be built in the Detroit area.

Detroit automakers usually build larger vehicles in the U.S. because the profit margins are high enough to cover the higher wages paid there versus Mexico or another lower-cost country.