Ford tells Trump no Lincoln SUV production going to Mexico

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President-elect Donald Trump said on Thursday Ford Motor Co Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr told him the automaker would not move production at a Kentucky plant to Mexico.

A Lincoln MKX SUV concept car is displayed at Auto China 2014 in Beijing April 20, 2014. REUTERS/Jason Lee/Files

“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!” Trump posted on Twitter. “He will be keeping the Lincoln plant in Kentucky - no Mexico.”

Ford has repeatedly said it has no plans to close any U.S. plants and likely could not do so under the terms of the current United Auto Workers contract that expires in 2019.

Ford spokeswoman Christin Baker said late on Thursday the automaker “confirmed with the President-elect that our small Lincoln utility vehicle made at the Louisville Assembly plant will stay in Kentucky.”

“We are encouraged that President-elect Trump and the new Congress will pursue policies that will improve U.S. competitiveness and make it possible to keep production of this vehicle here in the United States,” she added, in a statement.

The U.S. No. 2 automaker is planning to move some small-car production south of the border.

The company builds the Ford Escape and Lincoln MKC SUV at its Louisville assembly plant in Kentucky, where it employs about 4,700 people. It also has a separate truck plant in Louisville, where it builds pickups and larger SUVs.

Ford has endured scathing criticism from Trump over its Mexican investments for nearly 18 months.

The Republican candidate repeatedly said during his long presidential campaign that if elected he would not allow Ford to open a new plant in Mexico and would slap hefty tariffs on any Ford vehicles made in Mexico.

Ford said in April 2015 it planned to invest $2.5 billion to build two new plants in Mexico, adding 3,800 jobs in all. Earlier this year, Ford said it will invest a further $1.6 billion in Mexico for small-car production to start in 2018.

In September, Ford confirmed that all of the company’s small-car production will leave U.S. plants and head to lower-cost Mexico by 2019, but no plants would be closed as a result.

Ford has repeatedly said no U.S. jobs will be lost because of the move - and it will produce two new vehicles at a Detroit area plant that built the small cars.

In October, Bill Ford said he had met with Trump to talk about his extensive attacks on the automaker’s investments in Mexico.

Ford said Trump’s criticism was “infuriating” and “frustrating” because of the company’s extensive investments and employment in the United States.

Reporting by Eric Beech and David Shepardson; Editing by Sandra Maler and Bill Rigby