TORONTO — A U.S. consumer group has filed complaints against two of the largest American automakers over advertising claims that their vehicles are made in the United States, even though they're assembled in Canada.
The Made in the USA Foundation says it has filed two complaints with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission against Ford and Chrysler for misleading advertising.
The complaint, filed Monday, targets a commercial for the Chrysler 300, assembled in Brampton, Ont. west of Toronto, that contains the tag line "Imported from Detroit."
The Brampton plant also makes the Dodge Challenger and Dodge Charger.
The acclaimed "Imported from Detroit" campaign was introduced in February during the Superbowl and features the music of Detroit-born rapper Eminem as a Chrysler car veers through the gritty streets of Motown.
"The ads are clever, but they are false," Made in the USA's chairman Joel Joesph said in a statement.
"The Chrysler 300 is assembled in Brampton, Ontario, Canada and often includes a Mexican-made engine. Last time I checked, Detroit is not in Canada. Chrysler is flat wrong to imply the Chrysler 300 is made in the United States and we have asked the FTC to order corrective advertising."
Joseph couldn't be reached for comment.
But a spokesman for Chrysler said the allegation of misleading advertising "is completely without merit."
"Chrysler Group will continue to pursue all avenues to protect our 'Imported From Detroit' trademark," said Michael Palese.
The ads weren't broadcast in Canada.
The complaint against Ford involves an ad claiming its Fusion model is American, even though its assembled in Mexico. A Ford spokesman said the group also took issue with the Ford Edge, which is built in Oakville, Ont., west of Toronto.
That facility also makes the Ford Flex and Lincoln MKX and MKT.
But Said Deep of Ford Motors Inc. said the ad in question was produced by a dealer, whose ads are independently produced.
"Dealers create their own content," he said.
The complaints comes amid renewed promotion of American-made products amid sluggish U.S. economic growth, high unemployment and consumers who are reluctant to spend.
American automakers have also ramped up their claims of patriotism as competition from foreign companies for scarce consumer dollars increases.
Canadian manufacturers, already hit by a drop in demand from U.S. customers, are concerned about President Barack Obama's new $447-billion U.S. stimulus package that contains Buy American measures.
The bill contains a directive that none of the funds made available under the American Jobs Act may be used for "the construction, alteration, maintenance, or repair of a public building or public work unless all of the iron, steel and manufactured goods used in the project are produced in the United States."
The group is also accusing the automakers of ripping the country-of-origin information from vehicles they present at auto shows.
"Chrysler and Ford are intentionally misleading consumers by implying all of their vehicles are Made in the USA, when they are not," the statement said.
"To add to their wrongdoing Chrysler and Ford have removed country of origin labels from their car windows at auto shows where millions of consumers get their first look at many new cars."
But Deep at Ford said that's the case with every automaker, and the intent is not to deceive, but to present the cars in pristine condition.
"All the cars on the show floor are prettied up for the auto show, they're all under bright lights and you clean them up and there's no stickers on the outside of the car because it's a show."
Palese at Chrysler said it fully complies with the American Automobile Labelling Act — which doesn't contain any provision requiring labelling on vehicles at auto shows, only those that are distributed for sale.
Under a bailout deal reached with the Ontario and Canadian government to save the company from bankruptcy two years ago, Chrysler agreed to maintain about 20 per cent of its North American production in Ontario.
Some 9,000 employees work at Chrysler plants in Toronto, Brampton and Windsor, home to the company's largest assembly plant.
The company has been making investments in Ontario plants, the latest being over $1 billion in the Brampton plant.
The foundation dedicated to promoting American-made products was founded in 1989 and received initial funding by Ford itself. However, it said it pledges to object when the automaker violates the law.