by Keith Laing, The Hill Newspaper
General Motors is pushing back on Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s suggestion that the $80 billion bailout of the U.S. auto industry is resulting in cars being built in China instead of the United States.
In the closing days of the 2012 campaign, Romney has broadened his criticism of President Obama’s handling of the auto bailout with suggestions in ads that jobs in the car industry are being shipped overseas.
“Barack Obama says he saved the auto industry. But for who? Ohio or China?” a narrator says in a new radio ad being aired in Ohio by the Romney campaign.
GM joined Chrysler Tuesday afternoon in wading into the political fray to rebut Romney’s outsourcing suggestion.
“We’ve clearly entered some parallel universe during these last few days,” GM spokesman Greg Martin said in a statement provided to The Hill after a Detroit Free-Press report.
“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,” Martin continued.
The debate over potential outsourcing of auto industry jobs has previously centered exclusively on a disputed report Chrysler is considering moving production of its Jeep brand to China. The company has said it is planning to build cars in China for Chinese customers, not to relocate American jobs.
Romney’s radio ad does not make that distinction, and it criticizes GM for building in cars in China, too.
“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 Romney ad says. “And now comes word that Chrysler is starting to build cars in, you guessed it, China.”
Another GM spokesman, financial news manager James Cain, said the company’s business in China is conducted through “joint ventures” with Chinese companies.
“They all have their own balance sheets and are self funding,” Cain said in an email to The Hill.
“More specifically, they return cash dividends to the parent company, not the other way around,” he continued. “The vehicles we build in China are sold in China, for the most part. We do not export vehicles from China to the United States. All of our vehicles sold in the United States, with the exception of the low-volume Korean-built Chevrolet Spark, are built in the United States, Canada or Mexico.”
GM received a large share of the overall auto bailout when the federal government purchased a majority of its stock for $50 billion. In exchange for the assistance, the Obama administration insisted on the firing of former GM CEO Rick Wagoner.
Conservative critics of the bailout note that the company has not sold back all of its stocks, and derisively refer to the company as “Government Motors” for its reliance on federal help.
Democrats have grabbed onto the autos-to-China issue to accuse Romney of misleading swing voters in critical campaign battleground Ohio, which observers say could decide the presidential election.
Obama’s campaign released a television ad in response to Romney’s commercials accusing Romney of distorting Chrysler’s intentions.
“When the auto industry faced collapse, Mitt Romney turned his back, the Obama campaign ad says. “And now after Romney’s false claim of Jeep outsourcing to China, Chrysler itself has refuted Romney’s lie.
“The truth? Chrysler is adding jobs,” the Obama ad says before playing a clip of Romney saying “Let Detroit go bankrupt,” which is the title of an op-ed he wrote for The New York Times in 2008.
“Mitt Romney on Ohio jobs: Wrong then, dishonest now,” the Obama ad concludes.