Auto executives, with eye on Trump, highlight U.S. investments

Mon Jan 9, 2017 5:32pm EST
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By Bernie Woodall and David Shepardson

DETROIT (Reuters) - Global auto executives at the Detroit auto show are highlighting their investments in the United States, mindful of President-elect Donald Trump's attacks on automakers for building vehicles in Mexico.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCHA.MI: Quote)(FCAU.N: Quote) Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne said on Monday that uncertainty over Trump's trade and tax policies could lead automakers to delay investments in Mexico, and he confirmed plans to create 2,000 jobs at Fiat Chrysler's U.S. factories.

"The reality is the Mexican automotive industry has now for a number of years been tooled-up to try and deal with the U.S. market. If the U.S. market were not to be there, the reasons for its existence are on the line," Marchionne told reporters at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

FCA announced on Sunday it would spend $1 billion to retool factories in Ohio and Michigan to build new Jeep sport utility vehicles, as well as a pickup truck, and potentially move production of a Ram heavy-duty pickup truck to Michigan from Mexico.

On Monday, Ford confirmed it would build a new Ranger pickup and a new SUV under the storied Bronco name at a Michigan factory that currently builds Focus small cars. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump criticized Ford's announcement last year that it would move Focus production to Mexico.

Last week, Ford scrapped plans to build the $1.6-billion Focus plant in Mexico and said it would invest $700 million in a factory in Michigan.

Executives at Ford, Fiat Chrysler and other automakers said during interviews at the auto show their investment decisions were driven by business considerations, not Trump's comments.

Most major automakers in the U.S. market have substantial vehicle-making operations in Mexico, as well as complex networks of parts makers that supply their factories in the United States and support jobs and investment in states such as Ohio and Michigan.   Continued...

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne speaks during the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., January 9, 2017.  REUTERS/Rebecca Cook