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Nissan CEO: Automakers will adapt to Trump presidency

Michael Wayland
The Detroit News

Las Vegas — Automakers will “adapt” to any new regulations implemented during President-elect Donald Trump’s presidency, according to Nissan Motor Co. CEO and Chairman Carlos Ghosn.

The leader of the Japanese automaker said automakers must “be patient” to see what, if any, changes actually happen with the North American Free Trade Agreement or other campaign promises by the billionaire businessman. But they are “pragmatic,” and will adjust, he said.

“All carmakers are going to be watching very carefully starting Jan. 20; what’s going to be the new policy, what are going to be the rules — particularly the North American rules? And we will abide by them,” Ghosn said during a news conference Thursday night at the CES trade show in Las Vegas.

Ghosn, also head of French automaker Renault and chairman of Mitsubishi Motors, said the automaker “will adapt to any situation as long as it’s one rule for everybody.”

His comments follow those by Trump earlier in the day criticizing Toyota Motor Corp. on Twitter for previously announced plans to build some Corolla sedans for the United States in Mexico.

Trump’s tweet is the most recent to criticize automakers for importing vehicles from Mexico to the United States. On Tuesday, he threatened General Motors Co. with a “big border tax” on Chevy Cruze cars built in Mexico and imported for sale in the United States.

During his campaign, Trump indicated he could end or renegotiate the trade pact with Canada and Mexico, and slap a 10 percent to 35 percent tariff on vehicles and parts made in Mexico that are imported into the United States. He also has threatened tariffs of up to 45 percent exported from China to America.

Trump also repeatedly criticized Ford Motor Co. during his campaign for its plans to build a plant in Mexico. The Dearborn-based automaker Monday said it was canceling plans for a $1.6 billion plant, and now will build the car at an existing Mexico factory. It said it plans to invest $700 million at its Flat Rock Assembly Plant and create 700 new jobs in Michigan when it adds production of a new electric small SUV and a self-driving hybrid.

Ford President and CEO Mark Fields cited the cancellation on a shift in buyer preferences as compact car sales have fallen. But he said factors included the pro-business environment it sees in the United States under Trump.

Ghosn said Nissan is taking a wait-and-see approach to what may happen because he believes “that there are more ... fears, nervousness than real things.”

Ghosn isn’t surprised by Trump’s pro-America manufacturing stance. There are “plenty of countries trying to say, ‘If you want to sell cars in our country, you need to build the cars in the country.’ ” He said 95 percent of vehicles sold in China are being produced in the country as well as about 97 percent of cars sold in India that are produced in that country.

“We’ve seen it in many different markets in the world and we are very pragmatic people,” he said. “I’m not saying ‘we’ Nissan, ‘we’ all carmakers ... we will adapt to any situation on the condition that this is one rule for everybody.”

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Twitter: @MikeWayland