Ford toTrump: We’ll keep Lincoln MKC in Kentucky

Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford told president-elect Donald Trump on Thursday the automaker no longer plans to move production of its Lincoln MKC from Louisville to Mexico.

After repeatedly bashing Ford for investing in Mexico, Trump took credit in two tweets Thursday night for causing Ford to change its plans for the MKC luxury crossover.

Ford currently makes both the Ford Escape compact sport-utility vehicle and the MKC in Louisville. Ford said last year it planned to move MKC production to another plant so it could increase production of the Escape. The automaker said at the time no jobs would be lost in Louisville because of plans to boost Escape production.

The Dearborn automaker also made a commitment in its 2015 contract with the United Auto Workers union to invest $700 million in the Louisville plant over the next four years.

Ford spokeswoman Christin Baker said Ford’s plant in Cuautitlan, Mexico, was the “likely” location for the MKC in 2019.

Baker did not say why the automaker changed its plans for the Lincoln SUV. She did confirm that Bill Ford spoke with President-elect Trump on Thursday.

“Bill shared Ford’s continued commitment to invest in the U.S.,” Ford said in a statement. “We are encouraged that President-elect Trump and the new Congress will pursue policies that will improve U.S. competitiveness and make it possible to keep production of this vehicle here in the United States.”

Ford employs about 4,700 people at its plant in Louisville. The vast majority of the vehicles built at the plant are Escape SUVs. It also has a separate truck plant in Louisville, where it builds pickups and larger SUVs.

Trump has repeatedly criticized Ford over the past 18 months for its plans to move the production of its Ford Focus and Ford C-Max hybrids to Mexico even though nearly all other automakers also have built new plants in recent years or are expanding their presence there.

Trump also has promised to bring manufacturing jobs back to the U.S., signaled plans to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement and proposed a 35% tariff on cars made in Mexico as well as other products.

“A tariff like that would be imposed on the entire auto sector, and that could have a huge impact on the U.S. economy,” Ford CEO Mark Fields said Tuesday at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

Fields also said the automaker sent Trump a congratulatory letter after he won the Nov. 8 election.

Several other top-ranking executives at the Los Angeles Auto Show declined to comment directly on Trump’s comments about NAFTA or the tariff. Instead, most automotive executives say it’s too early to comment on Trump’s comments on the campaign trail because he hasn’t formally proposed anything yet.

“Well obviously, we are in a transition at the moment. I think it’s important with all of the speculation that’s out there just to see once the transition is finished, what the environment looks like,” Mike Manley, head the Ram and Jeep brands for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, said Wednesday. “Like every other automaker we are in contact with the administration, we welcome that contact, we are looking forward to that continuing and will see what happens.”

Ford, on Friday, emphasized that it has created 28,000 new jobs and has invested $12 billion in the U.S. over the past five years.

“We continue to engage with President-elect Trump’s team – and the new Congress – as they shape the policy agenda for 2017. We have shared our commitment to continue investing in the U.S. and creating American jobs,” Ford said in a statement.

Follow Detroit Free Press reporter Brent Snavely on Twitter @ BrentSnavely.

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