GM, like Chrysler, refutes Romney's auto industry ad

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks before participating in a campaign event collecting supplies from residents and local relief organizations for victims of superstorm Sandy, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, at the James S. Trent Arena in Kettering, Ohio. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

For the third time in a week, GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and the auto industry are at loggerheads, this time over a Romney radio ad implying that GM and Chrysler are expanding production in China at the cost of American jobs.

The ad claimed that "Under President Obama, GM cut 15,000 American jobs, but they are planning to double the number of cars built in China, which means 15,000 more jobs for China."

The accusation drew a dismissive response from a GM spokesman, who explained, "We've clearly entered some parallel universe during these last few days. No amount of campaign politics at its cynical worst will diminish our record of creating jobs in the U.S. and repatriating profits back to this country."

The ad further claimed that "Chrysler plans to start making Jeeps in, you guessed it, China."

Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne refuted Romney's comments in an email sent yesterday to Chrysler employees: "Jeep production will not be moved from the United States to China," Marchionne wrote, touting Chrysler's recent production expansions in America.

It was not the first time Romney claimed that Chrysler was shifting production to China, nor was it the first time Chrysler rebuked Romney's charge.

When Romney told an Ohio audience last week that "Jeep, now owned by the Italians, is thinking of moving all production to China," Chrysler colorfully waved away the charge.

"It is a leap that would be difficult even for professional circus acrobats," wrote Chrysler spokesman Gualberto Ranieri in a blog post. "Let's set the record straight: Jeep has no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America to China."

Chrysler's wry dismissal did not stop Romney from repeating the claim in an ad warning that "Obama took GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy and sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China. Mitt Romney will fight for every American job."

FactCheck.org called Romney's claims "flat wrong," explaining, "It's misleading to suggest that Chrysler's decision to expand into China will cost U.S. jobs -- especially after the company has said it would have no impact on its U.S. operations."

The fact-checking website cited a report from Bloomberg that Chrysler was mulling "adding Jeep production sites rather than shifting output from North America to China."

Romney's incentive to tarnish the credibility of President Obama's auto bailout is clear - his electoral fortunes largely depend on his showing in midwestern manufacturing states like Ohio and Michigan with a large auto industry presence. If he can convince voters there that the auto bailout did more harm than good, he will stand to benefit.

But that doesn't mean the automakers have to play along.