AP Fact Check | Trump distorts GM’s state of play

AP FACT CHECK: Trump distorts GM's state of play
FILE - In this Aug. 29, 2019, file photo President Donald Trump speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington. The polarized politics of climate change and the Trump administration’s quest to scrap government regulations have forced companies into an inconvenient dilemma: Oppose deregulation that could boost profits or support it and risk a backlash from environmentally conscious consumers. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

DETROIT (AP) — President Donald Trump distorted the state of the auto industry Friday in a tweet going after General Motors.

Trump tweeted that GM was among the smallest automakers in Detroit and that it had moved factories to China. Both statements are false.

In the past two weeks he has criticized the auto industry for not embracing his proposal to freeze Obama-era fuel economy requirements. He singled out Ford, one of four companies to side with California in a dispute with Trump over gas mileage and emissions requirements.

Here’s a look at his latest tweet and the facts:

TRUMP: “General Motors, which was once the Giant of Detroit, is now one of the smallest auto manufacturers there. They moved major plants to China, BEFORE I CAME INTO OFFICE. This was done despite the saving help given them by the USA. Now they should start moving back to America again?”

THE FACTS: First, General Motors did not shut down any U.S. plants and move the production to China. It set up and expanded operations there to serve China’s market.

Auto production by GM’s joint venture in China has more than doubled in the past 10 years to 1.96 million vehicles last year, according to LMC Automotive. But nearly all of the vehicles made in China were sold there. GM exported just over 30,000 Buick Envision SUVs from China to the U.S. last year, about 1 percent of the company’s U.S. sales. It wouldn’t be cost effective for GM to move China production to the U.S. due to Chinese tariffs, and higher labor and shipping costs.

Second, GM is far from a bit player in Detroit. By many measures it is the largest U.S. automaker. And it remains the largest Michigan-headquartered employer in the state, with a workforce of 52,000 outpacing that of Ford, the state government and Fiat Chrysler, according to an analysis this year by Crain’s Detroit Business .

The company made more money last year than crosstown rivals Fiat Chrysler and Ford, and GM sold more vehicles in the U.S. than the other two.

It produced over a half-million more vehicles in the U.S. than Fiat Chrysler, but made nearly 300,000 fewer in the U.S. than Ford, according to LMC and Wards Intelligence. GM’s employment of about 49,200 union-represented workers, including temporary hires, was second to Ford but more than Fiat Chrysler. Excluding temporary workers, GM has the lowest number of workers represented by the United Auto Workers union at 46,000.

GM builds in the U.S. 62% of the vehicles it sells in the country. For Ford, it’s 79.1% and it’s 50% at Fiat Chrysler.

Trump’s complaints about China are rooted in his trade war with that country. Mexico is actually more of a factor in shaping the U.S. auto industry.

GM leads all companies in automobiles produced in Mexico at just over 833,000 last year, according to LMC and the Center for Automotive Research, a think-tank based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Of GM vehicles sold in the U.S., 22% are produced in Mexico. The same is true of Fiat Chrysler. About 10% of Ford vehicles sold in the U.S. come from Mexico, according to the think-tank.

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Associated Press writer Josh Boak contributed to this report from Washington.

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EDITOR’S NOTE _ A look at the veracity of claims by political figures