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September 19, 2016 1:45 PM, EDT
Ford Fires Back at Trump, Citing Booming US Commercial-Truck Output
Ford Motor Co.

Ford Motor Co., pushing back against criticism by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump for moving work to Mexico, is highlighting its booming business in big trucks after shifting production to an Ohio factory from south of the border.

The Dearborn, Michigan-based company has sold 10,160 of its F-650 and F-750 trucks this year through August, up 59% from the same period in 2015 and the highest sales of those models since 1997, the automaker said in a statement. The big trucks are used as commercial vehicles, including beer haulers and tow, moving and dump trucks.

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Ford is firing back at Trump, who called the automaker “a disgrace” on Sept. 15 after CEO Mark Fields told investors that the second-largest U.S. automaker is moving North American small-car production to Mexico, where labor costs are lower than in the United States. After Trump threatened to levy a 35% tariff on Ford’s Mexico-built cars, Fields said the company is “absolutely not” cutting U.S. jobs to move small-car operations south because the Michigan plant currently building them will manufacture other models.

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“It’s really unfortunate when politics get in the way of the facts,” Fields said in a Sept. 15 interview on CNN. “And the facts are, Ford’s investment in the U.S. and commitment to American jobs has never been stronger. I mean, we’ve created more than 28,000 jobs in the U.S. in the last five years.”

Ford began producing the F-650 and F-750 at its assembly plant near Cleveland a year ago after the company spent $168 million converting the factory from building Econoline vans. They previously had been produced in Mexico in a joint venture with Navistar International Corp. known as Blue Diamond Trucking Co., which disbanded in 2014. The automaker now builds its full-size van, known as the Transit, at an assembly plant in Claycomo, Missouri.

The company is focusing on building high-margin trucks, vans and sport-utility vehicles in the United States, where labor costs are more expensive than in Mexico. Ford derives most of its profit from its F-Series truck line, Morgan Stanley has said. And the largest vehicles in the line generate the biggest return, according to analysts. By going it alone in the big-truck market, Ford no longer has to share profits with Navistar.

After parting with Navistar, Ford redesigned the F-650 and F-750 to offer them in a variety of body styles and with either gasoline or diesel engines. General Motors Co. exited that segment of the truck market after its 2009 government-backed bankruptcy.

“We’re seeing growing interest in the new tractor from beverage and hauling fleets,” Kevin Koester, Ford’s marketing manager for the models, said in a statement. “Towing and rental customers have embraced the gas engine.”