By Ronn Torossian, President & CEO, 5WPR
Ford was in the news for much of the second half of 2016, mainly due to its connection to the Presidential campaign. Donald Trump kept Ford near the top of his list of companies he would “stop” from taking jobs overseas, along with Carrier and Apple. Ford, though, managed to keep itself in the crosshairs, by announcing plans to build a brand new plant in Mexico. Never mind that they had hired 25,000 Americans in recent years, and never mind that no one in the United States was going to lose a job over the move, the “new plant in Mexico” was the only part of the message people really heard.
But, now, apparently, Ford has reversed its decision. It will still be sending some jobs and manufacturing operations to Mexico, and still replacing that work with new operations here in the States, but it will not build a new plant, opting instead to invest $700 million in Michigan instead. While Ford CEO Mark Fields said the change was a “vote of confidence” for the incoming President, Fields stopped short of giving Trump credit for the move. He also insisted Ford made no special deals with the President-Elect in order to incentivize the change.
Fields told CNN the decision was entirely based on good business … good business for Ford, not for Trump. The idea is to invest in electric cars, which Fields believes will begin to outsell gas-powered vehicles sometime in the next 20 years. The company is even planning a hybrid version of its ultimate muscle car, the Mustang. Some market insiders are claiming Ford’s U-turn has as much to do with its own market predictions as with GM’s recent major commitment to electric, hybrid, and autonomous vehicles.
As entrepreneur David Milberg told me, “While Ford was making strides in the electric and autonomous markets, GM stole their thunder – and the headlines – by announcing a major investment in fully electric and autonomous vehicles.”
No matter what Ford says, Trump fans are going to give their guy credit for this switch. Meanwhile, those who refuse to support Trump will not even consider the idea that his position might have played a part in the decision.Trump is taking credit, and promising more to come. So, it’s a cinch that this debate will continue every time an American company opts to invest domestically rather than internationally.