OK, President-elect Donald Trump's spin on Ford's (F) statement about keeping Lincoln SUV production in Kentucky was an exaggeration wrapped in overstatement wrapped in hyperbole.
In fact, Ford hadn't previously stated any intention to move the Lincoln MKC crossover to Mexico. Yet Trump took to Twitter on Thursday evening to take credit for "working things out" with Bill Ford Jr., Ford's executive chairman, to the benefit of Kentucky.
Or, as he tweeted in his @realDonTrump account: "I worked hard with Bill Ford to keep the Lincoln plant in Kentucky. I owed it to the great State of Kentucky for their confidence in me!"
The temptation might be to criticize Trump as the nonsensical, uninformed blowhard he proved himself to be not infrequently during the presidential campaign. Rather, I see his latest statement -- however awkward -- as a hopeful development, perhaps an indication that the president-elect has gained an appreciation for the importance of brisk automotive trade among the countries of North America.
Ford is moving its car production to Mexico in order to lower costs and perhaps make a profit, or at least lose less, on that difficult part of the business. The reason Ford continues to manufacture cars at all is that it's necessary to comply with federally mandated fuel-efficiency rules, which make little sense but are the law.
In terms of trade, the tariff-free movement of parts, components and vehicles across the Canadian and Mexican borders with the U.S. has been continuous for years and remains a vital ingredient in the profitability of Ford and General Motors (GM) , not to mention Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCAU) and thousands of suppliers and suppliers to suppliers.
Indeed, some parts and components cross the same border multiple times before they reach consumers as finished vehicles. The agreements that facilitate this movement are what keep workers employed across North America and make the U.S. the second-largest and most profitable vehicle market in the world.
My guess is that following Trump's call on Ford to bring back production from Mexico, someone sat the president-elect down and explained the complex, yet mutually beneficial framework of North American automotive trade and production. He decided (I guess) to do what politicians often do: declare victory and move on.
Another wrinkle to the North American automotive trade story is that Mexico has evolved into a highly desirable site for final vehicle assembly because of its unusually numerous and liberal trade agreements with other countries, allowing BMWs assembled in Mexico, for example, to be exported more cheaply than if they were built in BMW's plant in South Carolina.
When president, Trump might consider how free and liberal automotive trade agreements have helped Mexico -- and might help the U.S., too -- if he were able to accomplish such a feat during his term of office.