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(Reuters)

Ford to Trump: Won't Send Lincoln SUV Production to Mexico

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Ford Motor Co. Chairman Bill Ford called Donald Trump to tell the president-elect the auto maker won't move production of Lincolns out of Kentucky, a sign the car company aims to work with a new administration on protecting American manufacturing workers.

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Mr. Trump, in a tweet posted to his Twitter account late Thursday, said he had "just got a call from my friend Bill Ford, Chairman of Ford, who advised me that he will be keeping the Lincoln plant in Kentucky -- no Mexico." He then added in a second tweet "I worked hard with Bill Ford to keep the Lincoln plant in Kentucky."

The auto maker confirmed in a statement that production of the Lincoln MKC crossover will remain at its assembly plant in Louisville, Ky. Ford had initially planned to move output of the Lincoln model to another plant to boost production of the Escape, which is built at the same factory. The company didn't say where it had planned to move production of the Lincoln crossover.

Ford communicated that plan to the United Auto Workers in 2015 as part of a broader contract negotiation. The Louisville plant, employing about 4,700 workers, wasn't in danger of closing.

"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," the company said.

Mr. Trump campaigned on a pledge to bring U.S. manufacturing jobs back and took aim at Ford's separate plans to move small-car production from Michigan to a new $1.6 billion factory it is building in Mexico. That product, the Focus, is separate from the Lincoln Mr. Trump referred to, and Ford is still planning to move those small cars to Mexico, Chief Executive Mark Fields said earlier this week.

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As the Republican candidate for president, Mr. Trump proposed a 35% tariff on vehicles or other products built abroad and imported by the U.S. by companies like Ford. Mr. Fields said a tariff would have negative consequences for the broader auto industry and the U.S. economy.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Trump didn't immediately return a request for comment.

Ford executives, including Mr. Ford, have repeatedly stressed the company's shift in factory output to Mexico won't cost any U.S. jobs and the Michigan factory losing small-car production will eventually get new models to keep the assembly lines running.

Ford says it has invested $12 billion in its U.S. factories over the past five years creating 28,000 jobs.

Mr. Fields told reporters Ford has talked to Mr. Trump's transition team and believes the company can work with the new administration. "We all share the same objective," Mr. Fields said.

Ford's Chief Financial Officer Bob Shanks was also encouraged by Mr. Trump's recent remarks, saying earlier Thursday he believes the president-elect is pursuing "pro-growth" policies, including on trade.

Like many of its rivals, Ford is increasing production of more profitable trucks and sport-utility vehicles in the U.S. while investing to boost output in Mexico for lower-margin small cars.

Mr. Trump has said he would begin renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement that covers Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.

If Mexico doesn't agree to improve terms, the U.S. will leave the pact, Mr. Trump said. He blames unfair trade, in particular with Mexico and China, for the loss of millions of factory jobs´┐Ża message that resonated with voters in Michigan during the election. Mr. Trump won Michigan, the first Republican candidate to do that since 1988.

Write to Christina Rogers at christina.rogers@wsj.com

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