By Associated Press
President Donald Trump claimed over the weekend at a rally in North Carolina that voters in Michigan were rewarded for handing him a narrow but important win in 2016 when he persuaded then–Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan to get car companies to bring manufacturing to the Great Lake State. The problem, the Associated Press concludes, is that Trump appears to have made that up.
“We won Michigan — first time in decades. And you know what we’ve done? Many, many car plants are now opening up. ... I said, ‘Shinzo, please do me a favor, we need more car companies. ... We want them built here, not in Japan, please.’ He said, ‘But we cannot do that, this is a free-enterprise system.’ I said, ‘... Please, I need some car companies.’ ... I said, ‘Shinzo, you have to do it.’ Next day, it was the story: ‘Five car companies opened up in Michigan.’ ”
In reality, however, no Japanese automobile manufacturer assembly plants have been announced or built in Michigan, let alone in one day, and there are no plans to add any.
There is one manufacturing facility, a joint venture between General Motors /zigman2/quotes/205226835/composite GM -3.03% and Honda /zigman2/quotes/207173990/composite HMC -3.01% , south of Detroit. It’s the $85 million expansion of an existing facility to make hydrogen fuel cells with about 100 new jobs, according to the Center for Automotive Research, an industry think tank in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Subaru /zigman2/quotes/203522406/delayed JP:7270 -2.11% /zigman2/quotes/200526066/composite FUJHY -3.71% has a new research center with about 100 new jobs, and Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi /zigman2/quotes/200919924/delayed FR:RNO -3.84% /zigman2/quotes/208298710/delayed JP:7201 -1.13% /zigman2/quotes/202404490/delayed JP:7211 -0.87% and Toyota /zigman2/quotes/200537742/composite TM -1.94% have announced expansions of research facilities.
These are not new “car plants” run by Japanese automobile makers.
In fact, the number of automobile and parts manufacturing jobs in Michigan fell between Trump’s inauguration and February of this year, before the coronavirus took hold. When Trump took office there were 174,200 jobs, and that dropped to 171,800 in February, according to Labor Department statistics. In July, the most recent figures available, there were 154,400 auto and parts manufacturing jobs in Michigan.
That’s far from a car-company renaissance in the state courtesy of Japan, as Trump asserts.