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Trump teases new foreign-owned U.S. auto plants

Keith Laing
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President Donald Trump said Wednesday that five new auto factories will be opened soon in the United States by a foreign-owned automaker, but he did not specify the company.

“I just left the United Nations last week and I was told by one of the most powerful leaders of the world that they are going to be announcing in the not too distant future five major factories in the United States, between increasing and new, five,” Trump told an audience in Indianapolis at a speech about tax reform. “You’ll be hearing about that very soon.”

“I promised I wouldn’t say who. I’ll keep my word, OK,” Trump continued. “It happens to be in the automobile industry.”

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the location of the potential plants and the timing of those announcements, or the company or companies involved.

Trump has taken a carrot-and-stick approach to the auto industry since taking office.

He pledged to focus on boosting manufacturing jobs early in his term, bringing CEOs from Detroit automakers to Washington for a White House meeting in his first weeks in office.

He has threatened of “border taxes” for automakers who build cars in Mexico, and singled out companies for production plans that called for building smaller vehicles outside of the country.

The president also has criticized leaders from countries like Germany and South Korea for selling cars in the U.S. while American carmakers struggle to gain a foothold in their backyards.

Trump’s auto push has produced few results so far beyond an initial crop of production plans that were in some case in place months before the election.

Toyota Motor Corp. and Mazda Motor Corp. in August announced plans to build a $1.6 billion joint assembly manufacturing plant in the U.S. that could open in 2021. The Japanese automakers have said the new facility could create up to 4,000 jobs.

Toyota said Tuesday that it plans to spend $373.8 million on improvements to five of its U.S. plants to support production of its first American-made hybrid powertrain.

Additionally, Volvo Cars announced Tuesday that it plans to spend $600 million to expand its plant in Berkeley County, South Carolina.

It is scheduled to open in 2018 and create capacity to build its next-generation XC90 SUV there. The company said the new investment, on top of $500 million that was originally planned to be put into the plant, will raise the total of new jobs created at the Charleston site to nearly 4,000.

Daimler AG similarly announced last week plans to invest $1 billion into its Tuscaloosa, Alabama, facility to produce EQ-branded electric SUV models under its Mercedes-Benz brand.

The renewed focus on auto manufacturing comes as Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to visit the American Axle and Manufacturing plant in Auburn Hills on Thursday.

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Twitter: @Keith_Laing

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