October 31, 2012

Bloomberg’s Trudell Casts Currently Held Jobs as New Ones in Report on Marchionne’s Memo to Chrysler Employees

CEO Sergio Marchionne of Fiat, the parent company of the U.S. government bailed-out Chrysler, got two unexpected and undeserved breaks from Craig Trudell at Bloomberg yesterday.

The first was the story’s presidential election-driven focus in its headline (“Chrysler CEO Reiterates Jeep Production Staying in U.S.”) and first five paragraphs on Fiat’s plans to manufacture vehicles in China for the Chinese market and Marchionne’s insistence that this move won’t reduce U.S. employment at Chrysler. Trudell waited until the sixth paragraph of his report to convey the real news, noted by yours truly yesterday (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), which is that the company plans to make a new model of Jeep, Chrysler’s signature nameplate, in Italy for export to Europe and the U.S. The second undeserved break the Bloomberg reporter gave Marchionne credited him with five times as much future employment growth than he deserves (if it really occurs), and is in the paragraph which follows the jump (bolds are mine throughout this post):

Since its bankruptcy in 2009, Chrysler has announced about $4.2 billion in investments for Jeep models and plants that produce them in Detroit; Belvidere, Illinois; and Toledo, Ohio. The three investments will add about 5,700 jobs combined by next year, Marchionne wrote today in his message to employees.

I believe that most readers will come away from this paragraph believing that the company is adding 5,700 more jobs between now and next year. That isn’t the case, as will be seen shortly. Trudell may claim that his opening sentence in the paragraph above refutes my contention; if so, I disagree.

Here’s what the relevant portion of Marchionne’s memo, published in full at the Detroit News (HT to an NB emailer), actually says:

We also are investing to improve and expand our entire U.S. operations, including our Jeep facilities. The numbers tell the story:

- We will invest more than $1.7 billion to develop and produce the next generation Jeep SUV, the successor of the Jeep Liberty — including $500 million directly to tool and expand our Toledo Assembly Complex and will be adding about 1,100 jobs on a second shift by 2013.

- At our Jefferson North Assembly Plant, where we build the Jeep Grand Cherokee, we have created 2,000 jobs since June 2009 and have invested more than $1.8 billion.

- In Belvidere, where we build two Jeep models, we have added two shifts since 2009 resulting in an additional 2,600 jobs.

With the increase in demand for our vehicles, especially Jeep branded vehicles, we have added more than 11,200 U.S. jobs since 2009. Plants producing Jeep branded vehicles alone have seen the number of people invested in the success of the Jeep brand grow to more than 9,300 hourly jobs from 4,700. This will increase by an additional 1,100 as the Liberty successor, which will be produced in Toledo, is introduced for global distribution in the second quarter of 2013.

Only 1,100 of the 5,700 jobs Marchionne identified are new. He said so twice. The combined 4,600 jobs identified in the second and third bullets above are already filled.

1,100 new jobs beats the heck out of zero, but it’s less than 20% of what Trudell conveyed to readers as new employment. If he had written “The three investments will have added about 5,700 jobs combined by next year,” he would have been accurate. Of course, it would have been better to specifically identify the fact that expected job additions are 1,100.

Whether what Trudell did was based in bias or sloppiness hardly matters. Many people now incorrectly believe that Jeep plans to create over five times more new jobs in the coming year than the company’s parent plans.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.


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