Even before Ford unveiled plans Tuesday to spend $1.2 billion modernizing assembly plants and building a data center in Michigan, President Trump took to Twitter to herald the forthcoming announcement as an example of “car companies coming back to the U.S.”
“JOBS! JOBS! JOBS!” the president touted.
But the Ford investment isn’t exactly new. Nor will it create many new jobs. In all, Ford will add 130 jobs as a result of the investment and preserve an additional 3,600 that might otherwise have been in doubt.
The exchange reflects the symbiotic relationship that has formed between Trump and the auto sector: Trump claims credit for creating jobs and then lends a sympathetic ear on federal regulation.
Since his election, Trump has pointed to investments and job announcements by automakers as a sign that his administration is delivering on its economic promise to bring jobs back to the United States. Ford, Fiat-Chrysler and General Motors, among other companies, got early mentions in Trump’s joint address to Congress last month for investing and hiring in the United States.
In reality, those investments were in the works long before Trump’s election. The largest of the three investments Ford announced Tuesday, for example, was outlined in a 2015 agreement between Ford and the United Auto Workers labor union to invest $9 billion and create or retain 8,500 jobs through 2019.
But Ford chief executive Mark Fields and other auto executives have said they expect this administration to act in their favor on issues like environmental regulation and tax reform. Already, Trump has announced plans to review fuel efficiency standards that the Environmental Protection Agency put in place during the Obama administration. Automakers contend those rules will cost billions of dollars and put manufacturing jobs at risk, something Trump told auto plant workers in Ypsilanti, Mich., earlier this month that he would not allow.
“We’re going to help the companies and they’re going to help you,” Trump said.
Ford will spend $850 million to upgrade its Michigan Assembly Plant, where it plans to manufacture the Bronco and Ranger. At the North American International Auto Show in January, Ford announced that it planned to resurrect the fan favorites, which have been retired from the U.S. market for many years. The investment will secure 3,600 jobs at the plant, a spokeswoman said.
That investment comes as more U.S. consumers are buying large vehicles; trucks and SUVs made up about 60 percent of new vehicle sales in 2016. Because big vehicles tend to fetch big sticker prices, automakers can profitably manufacture them in the United States. Meanwhile, smaller vehicles are increasingly built in Mexico and other countries where labor is cheaper.
Ford said it will invest another $150 million and add 130 jobs at its engine plant in Romeo, Mich., about 33 miles north of Detroit.
The balance of the investment, $200 million, will be used to build a data center where Ford plans to store consumer information related to connected and autonomous cars. As cars become equipped with more applications and features, automakers are looking to derive new revenue streams from the reams of data they produce.
“If you look at the investments we’ve announced so far this year in Michigan, they capture what’s going on right now in the business,” Joseph Hinrichs, Ford’s president for the Americas, said in an interview.
In January, Ford announced that it would invest $700 million and add 700 jobs at a facility in Flat Rock, Mich., where it intends to produce electric and self-driving vehicles. That announcement came as Ford canceled plans to build a $1.6 billion facility in Mexico because of declining demand for the small cars it planned to build there.
Read more from The Washington Post’s Innovations section.