Mitt Romney, Despite Oft Professed Love of American Cars in Michigan, Drives–and Loves–His BMW

Governor Mitt Romney is stressing his father’s connection to the American auto industry as he plays for Motor City in segments like this one:

“A little history,” Romney says. “I was born and raised here. I love this state. It seems right here. The trees are the right height. I like seeing the lakes. I love the lakes. There’s something very special here–the great lakes, but also all the little inland lakes that dot the parts of Michigan. I love cars. I don’t know, I mean, I grew up totally in love with cars. It used to be in the ’50s and ’60s if you showed me one square foot of almost any part of a car, I could tell what brand it was, and model, and so forth. Now, with all the Japanese cars, I’m not quite so good at it, but I still know the American cars pretty well and drive a Mustang. I love cars. I love American cars. And long may they rule the world, let me tell you.”

And this one, where Romney points out that his wife drives a couple of Cadillacs, taken from a speech he gave Friday:

“I love this country. Actually I love this state. This feels good, being back in Michigan. You know, the trees are the right height. The streets are just right. I like the fact that most of the cars I see are Detroit-made automobiles. I drive a Mustang and a Chevy pickup truck. Ann drives a couple of Cadillacs, actually. And I used to have a Dodge truck, so I used to have all three covered.”

According to a new book, The Real Romney by Scott Helman and Michael Kranish, Romney owns a number of cars. Long after he made it big at Bain Capital, he continued to drive a dented Chevy Caprice Classic, nicknamed the Gray Grunt, much to the chagrin of his boys who encouraged him to trade up for a luxury car. (111)

Ultimately, he did buy a luxury car, a BMW coupe. His wife, Ann, forgot to close the sunroof and the inside was soaked. Mitt apparently didn’t get upset about it, telling a friend that, “I know who does the cooking here.” He was appreciative of his wife, even though she ruined his favorite car.(103)

The Romneys also own a BMW convertible, which Romney rode into Washington D.C. in the aftermath of the 9-11 attacks. The very day 9-11 happened Romney was with an aide preparing to lobby the federal government for still more aid for the Salt Lake City Olympics. (219)

According to Kranish and Helman, “one of the first things” Romney’s consultants did when he ran for governor was to make sure his “BWM remained stowed out of sight. The image of Romney behind the wheel of a fancy car–and a European one, at that–was not exactly what his advisers wanted in voters’ minds.” (232)

Worse yet, as governor, Romney also upset his advisers by favoring excise taxes on vehicles such as trucks and sport-utility vehicles that got poor mileage. (232) In 2010, Romney drove a Chevy pickup truck to a New Hampshire fundraiser once he noticed how well it played with voters in the Scott Brown race.

Now, on the campaign trail, Romney mentions that he drives a Ford Mustang (probably the same one he drove around Arizona after losing to John McCain). Ford, of course, was one of the American companies that didn’t take bail out money. Perhaps Romney is one of the one in five Americans that bought a Ford because of that decision?  In any event, in November 2008, he advocated letting Detroit go bankrupt in the pages of The New York Times.

Now, in fairness, Rick Santorum drove an Audi A6 in 2008 and Michelle Obama drove a Mercedes when she worked at Sidley Austin, but neither one of them, insofar as I can tell, has ever praised American cars as often as Mitt Romney, who promises that the auto industry can come back once it has a “Detroiter” in the White House, according to The Detroit News. On the contrary, Rick Santorum continues to make the case that the bailouts–indeed, all bailouts–are a mistake.