(Advisory: Note expletives in paragraphs 1 and 4)
By Bernie Woodall
DETROIT (Reuters) - A Chrysler executive told Donald Trump in a Tweet on Thursday that the real estate executive and television personality was “full of shit” for repeating a notion that Chrysler is shipping U.S. Jeep production to China, which the automaker refutes.
Ralph Gilles, the head of product design for Chrysler, became the second top Chrysler executive in three days to strongly deny the claim, which was first made by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney last week to a crowd in Ohio.
Trump, from his Twitter account, said, “Obama is a terrible negotiator. He bails out Chrysler and now Chrysler wants to send all Jeep manufacturing to China--and will!”
To which Gilles, from his Twitter account, responded to Trump: “You are full of shit!”
In a second Tweet, Giles added: “I apologize for my language, but lies are just that, lies.”
On Tuesday, Chrysler Group LLC Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne, in an e-mail to employees, also flatly denied Romney’s claim.
“I feel obliged to unambiguously restate our position: Jeep production will not be moved from the United States to China,” Marchionne wrote.
Romney, speaking a week ago to a crowd in Defiance, Ohio, said that he had read a news article that said Chrysler’s Jeep brand is considering moving “all production to China.”
Jeep, Chrysler’s global brand, has three U.S. assembly plants, including one in Toledo, Ohio. The others are in Illinois and in Detroit.
Ohio is seen by pollsters as a key “swing” state in next Tuesday’s presidential election. It has been the site of intense competition between the campaigns of Romney and President Barack Obama.
After Romney spoke in Defiance, his campaign aired an advertisement that did not repeat the move of production from Ohio but said that Chrysler is considering making Jeeps in China, which Chrysler has said it intends to do.
Marchionne said that any Jeep production in China would be for the Chinese market, and that the company would not take any production away from Chrysler’s U.S. plants. Rather, he said, Chrysler is adding jobs and investment at its Ohio plant.
Chrysler has been managed by Fiat SpA since it emerged from its 2009 bankruptcy, when the Italian company took 20 percent ownership. Fiat has since increased its ownership to 58.5 percent.
Marchionne is chief executive of both Chrysler and Fiat.
Reporting by Bernie Woodall; Editing by Dan Grebler