AP FACT CHECK: Little truth in Trump’s auto industry refrain

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump got right to it in his Michigan rally Thursday night — greatly exaggerating what’s happening in the auto industry.

Here’s a look at his rhetoric about car companies and more during and before his Grand Rapids rally:

TRUMP: “We’re bringing a lot of those car companies back. They’re pouring back in.” — opening remarks at rally.

TRUMP: “We’re opening up car plants in Michigan again for the first time in decades. They’re coming in, really pouring in. … And this has been happening pretty much since I’ve been president. It’s really amazing what’s going on … We’ve brought back so much industry, so many car companies to Michigan, so we’re very happy.” — remarks while departing for Michigan.

THE FACTS: There is very little truth in those remarks.

The only automaker announcing plans to reopen a plant in Michigan is Fiat Chrysler, which is restarting an old engine plant to build three-row SUVs. It’s been planning to do so since before Trump was elected. GM is even closing two Detroit-area factories: one that builds cars and another that builds transmissions.

Automakers have made announcements about new models being built in the state, but no other factories have been reopened. Ford stopped building the Focus compact car in the Detroit suburb of Wayne last year, but it’s being replaced by the manufacture of a small pickup and a new SUV. That announcement was made in December 2016, before Trump took office.

GM, meantime, is closing factories in Ohio and Maryland.

Trump can plausibly claim that his policies have encouraged some activity in the domestic auto industry. Corporate tax cuts freed more money for investment and potential tariff increases on imported vehicles are an incentive to build in the U.S.

But automakers have not been “pouring in” at all, as he persistently claims, and when expansion does happen, it’s not all because of him.

Fiat Chrysler has been planning the SUVs for several years and has been looking at expansion in the Detroit area, where it has unused building space and an abundant, trainable automotive labor force.

Normally it takes at least three years for an automaker to plan a new vehicle, which is the case with the three-row Jeep Grand Cherokee and the larger Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer SUVs that will fill the restarting Detroit-area plant and an existing one. Several years ago then-CEO Sergio Marchionne said the Wagoneer would be built in the Detroit area.

Detroit automakers usually build larger vehicles in the U.S. because the profit margins are high enough to cover the higher wages paid there versus Mexico or another lower-cost country.

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TRUMP: “If the Supreme Court rules that Obamacare is out, we will have a plan that’s far better than Obamacare.” — remarks Wednesday to reporters.

THE FACTS: The White House, executive branch agencies like Health and Human Services, and Republicans in Congress do not have a comprehensive plan to provide “far better” health care than the Affordable Care Act and there’s no indication they are working on one.

Trump’s recent budget called for repealing “Obamacare” and setting hard limits on federal spending for Medicaid, which covers low-income people. Some Republicans argue that would be better, because the federal government would create a new program of health care grants to states. But when the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office analyzed similar proposals a couple of years ago, it estimated such changes would result in deep coverage losses, not to mention weaker insurance protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions.

Trump’s budget also called for hundreds of billions of dollars in Medicare cuts to hospitals and other service providers, a nonstarter with lawmakers in Congress worried about re-election next year.

The Supreme Court has upheld the health care law twice in previous challenges. The five justices who first upheld it in 2012 are still on the court.

Some senior Republicans have made no secret of their dismay with the president’s pivot back to repealing the Obama health law.

Congressional Republicans are generally trying to steer away from Obamacare spats. Some are trying to focus on areas where they might find common ground with Democrats and the president, such as reducing prescription drug costs.

Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley chairs the Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over health care programs. He recently told reporters he’s working on bipartisan legislation to deal with prescription drugs. Grassley pointed out that repealing Obamacare clearly would not be a bipartisan effort with Democrats.

The Trump administration has joined the side of Texas and other Republican-led states in a lawsuit calling for full repeal of the health law. Grassley noted that case may not be resolved until next year, in the midst of a presidential election and congressional races.

If the Supreme Court overturns the law, Congress would have to act, said Grassley. “But I doubt you’re going to find that happening in an election year.”

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Krisher reported from Detroit.

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EDITOR’S NOTE _ A look at the veracity of claims by political figures

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