Ralph Gilles, Chrysler vice president for design and president of Dodge at the Chrysler Tech Center in Auburn Hills on Jan. 6, 2012, angrily refuted a tweet from Donald Trump saying Chrysler was going to outsource Jeep production to China. / ANDRE J. JACKSON/Detroit Free Press
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Frustration with the politicization of the U.S. auto industry’s comeback story generated a pointed response from a top Chrysler executive today. Billionaire Donald Trump, who supports Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, today tweeted that President Barack “Obama is a terrible negotiator.”
Trump added: “He bails out Chrysler and now Chrysler wants to send all Jeep manufacturing to China--and will!”
The comment drew a heated tweet from Chrysler Group Vice President for Product Design Ralph Gilles: “you are full of (expletive)!”
Several hours later, after nearly 1,000 Twitter users circulated his original message by retweeting it, Gilles tweeted again: “I apologize for my language, but lies are just that, lies. Thanks for the support People.”
Gilles is viewed as a well-respected and talented executive who easily could have left Chrysler when it was struggling but opted to stay with the troubled automaker as it went through Chapter 11 bankruptcy.He joined Chrysler in 1992 as a designer and rose to vice president of design by 2008. Gilles, a car enthusiast, also spearheaded the redevelopment of the 2013 SRT Viper, which is being shipped to dealers now.
It’s the latest iteration of a spat that started a week ago when Romney said in Ohio he had seen a report that suggested Chrysler could move all Jeep production to China.Chrysler quickly rejected the claim as inaccurate, and some analysts have literally laughed at the suggestion.
Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne told employees in an email Tuesday that all U.S. Jeep production would stay in place and would “constitute the backbone of the brand.”
“It is inaccurate to suggest anything different,” he said.