Trump keeps bragging about imaginary auto plants in swing states

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We have documented before the president’s “swing-state spin,” in which he claims he has achieved great economic success for states that, coincidentally, are necessary for him to achieve an electoral college victory.

According to our database of Trump’s false and misleading claims, the president has mentioned Michigan in 120 false claims, Ohio in 94 claims and North Carolina in 68 claims. South Carolina is not a swing state, but it may have a competitive Senate race, so that may be why it slipped into his spiel on Labor Day

It’s been a while since we have reviewed these claims in a full fact check. So has anything happened to make Trump’s falsehoods any more true?

The Facts

Essentially, Trump says that under his watch, auto assembly plants have been added at an unprecedented rate in Michigan, Ohio, North Carolina, South Carolina and possibly other states — “they’re being built all over and expanded at a level that we’ve never seen before.” He attributes this to his jawboning of countries such as Japan and Germany — and his threat of higher tariffs.

No surprise. Trump is making stuff up.

Kristin Dziczek, vice president at CAR, said there have been four new auto assembly plants announced since Trump took office — three in Michigan, one in Alabama. Here are the details, with the information provided by Dziczek.

  • Navya, a French company, announced 2017. This is the company’s first North American production facility, which will roll out 25 of its driverless Arma shuttles by the end of the year. Kits will be brought from France initially, but Navya is under contract with U.S. suppliers to provide parts. (Saline, Mich., 50 jobs.)
  • Toyota, a Japanese company, in a joint venture with Mazda, announced 2017. Toyota Motor Corp. has abandoned plans to build Corolla sedans at a joint assembly plant it is building in cooperation with Mazda in Huntsville, Ala., and instead will build an as-yet-unannounced crossover there. (4,000 jobs.)
  • Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), an Italian-American multinational, announced 2018. FCA plans to convert the Mack Avenue Engine factory in Detroit to an assembly plant for the next-generation Jeep Grand Cherokee and a new, large Jeep SUV. (3,850 jobs.)
  • Waymo, a U.S. company that is a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc., announced 2019. The company plans to bring a factory to Michigan, creating up to 400 jobs at what it describes as the world’s first plant “100%” dedicated to the mass production of autonomous vehicles. The company plans to spend about $13.6 million to retrofit a to-be-determined manufacturing facility in the Detroit area.

Note that only two are completely foreign-owned companies, with one company mostly relying on its overseas suppliers.

There are no new plants in Ohio, North Carolina or South Carolina. Mercedes-Benz, a German company, and Volvo, a Swedish company, both opened plants in South Carolina in 2018, but the projects broke ground in 2015, before Trump was elected. So that doesn’t count.

As for his claim of unprecedented investment, Dziczek said: “In total, there were over $64.2 billion in automaker manufacturing investment announcements in the United States between 2013-2016 (previous three-year period) vs. $40.0B between 2017-2020.”

In other words, not unprecedented.

We sought comment from the White House but did not get a response.

The Pinocchio Test

The president wants to present a good-news story to his supporters. But the reality is different.

Only four new auto plants have been announced since Trump took office, and auto manufacturing was higher under the last three years of Barack Obama’s presidency than the first three of Trump’s. Three of the four states name-checked by Trump do not have new plants. And there’s no evidence that Trump’s threat of tariffs led to more auto investment.

Trump earns Four Pinocchios.

Four Pinocchios

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