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Is Mitt Romney ad on Jeep jobs misleading?

A new Romney campaign ad, running in the battleground state of Ohio, implies that Chrysler is moving US jobs building Jeeps to China, and that Obama is at fault for having 'sold Chrysler to the Italians.'

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Yes, Italians did buy Chrysler. Cerberus Capital, Chrysler’s previous owner, had been talking to Fiat about a deal; the Obama administration’s auto task force quickly told the parties they had to reach a merger agreement or Chrysler would lose the government loans keeping it afloat. After Chrysler's bankruptcy, Fiat emerged with a 20 percent stake in the firm and operational control.

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Washington Editor

Peter Grier is The Christian Science Monitor's Washington editor. In this capacity, he helps direct coverage for the paper on most news events in the nation's capital.

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It’s also possible that the Italians who own Chrysler are going to build Jeeps – perhaps Chrysler’s most valuable auto brand – in China. In an e-mail to employees Tuesday, Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne repeated a previous announcement that the firm is thinking of restarting a Jeep assembly line in China closed in 2009 to supply the local market.

In the e-mail, Mr. Marchionne adds that the Chinese market would be inaccessible otherwise. Beijing keeps tight control of the nation’s car marketplace; tariffs and other regulations render it off limits to foreign-made mass market models.

“I feel obliged to unambiguously restate our position. Jeep production will not be moved from the United States to China. North American production is critical to achieving our goal of selling 800,000 Jeep vehicles by 2014. In fact, US production of our Jeep models has nearly tripled ... since 2009 in order to keep up with global demand,” wrote Marchionne in the e-mail, posted online by the Detroit Free Press.

Last Thursday during a campaign stop in Defiance, Ohio, Romney said he’d seen a story indicating that “Jeep, now owned by the Italians, is thinking of moving all production to China.”

As Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler notes, “This was completely wrong.” A Bloomberg story had reported accurately on Jeep’s China intentions. Some conservative blogs then misinterpreted the story to mean that the departure of Jeep jobs was imminent. Romney may have received his false information from them.

The Romney ad drops the part about “moving all production to China.” But it’s implying the same thing – otherwise, why mention “Jeep” and “China” in the same sentence at all?

“The series of statements in the ad individually may be technically correct, but the overall message of the ad is clearly misleading – especially since it appears to have been designed to piggyback off of Romney’s gross misstatement that Chrysler was moving Ohio factory jobs to China,” concludes Mr. Kessler.

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