Update: See below
Last week, Bloomberg News ran a story with this headline: "Fiat Says Jeep Output May Return to China as Demand Rises".
There are three ways you could look at that.
1. You could cock your head to the side like Nipper the RCA dog and wonder what the heck it means.
2. You could assume that the writer simply chose a clumsy headline for a story that should've been titled something like, "Jeep May Reopen Factories In China".
3. You could assume that Chrysler's Italian overlords are moving the design, research, and manufacturing facilities of one of America's most popular automotive brands to China (for cheap labor, less regulation, more incentives, take your pick), thus hastening the arrival of the End Times.
Most readers probably chose option #1 or #2. However, a handful of politicians and pundits selected option #3 without bothering to read the article and suss out the facts. This is how rumors get started.
As we pointed out last week at Motor Authority, the Bloomberg story referred to the production of Jeep vehicles for the Chinese auto market: "Today, all Jeep models are produced in the United States, at assembly lines in Michigan, Illinois and Ohio. In the pre-Fiat days, however, some Jeep models destined for China were built in in Chinese plants."
That is exactly what the author of the Bloomberg article with the poorly worded headline was going on about. To streamline production during the Great Recession, Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne had Jeeps for the Chinese market built in the U.S. To meet growing demand, however, Marchionne is now in talks with Guangzhou Automobile Group about the possibility of making some -- or perhaps all -- Chinese-bound Jeeps in China itself.
And for those who still find fault with that, complaining that Marchionne is creating jobs overseas rather than in America, we should point out that the automaker is on a hiring roll in the U.S. In fact, just last week, Chrysler added 1,100 workers at a Detroit factory to help meet strong demand for the Jeep Grand Cherokee.
None of which is meant to excuse the Bloomberg article from being vague. The author could've clarified things early on, but instead chose to wait until the fifth paragraph to explain that the Chrysler/Guangzhou partnership would result in "adding Jeep production sites rather than shifting output from North America to China". So in fairness, we can understand how pundits might get confused.
Not that pundits are always interested in fairness, of course.
Update: To correct the multiple misreadings of the Bloomberg story currently floating around the blogosphere and on the airwaves, Marchionne has issued a statement on the matter: