Blazer to be built in Mexico as trade threats escalate

Nora Naughton
The Detroit News
The 2019 Chevrolet Blazer on the General Motors Design Center patio in Warren, Michigan on June 15, 2018.

As President Donald Trump escalates his threats to impose tariffs on cars imported to the United States, the new leader of the union's General Motors Co. department is taking a hard line on the Detroit automaker's decision to assemble in Mexico a new crossover carrying the revived Blazer nameplate.

Moments after GM revealed the 2019 Chevrolet Blazer at an event in Atlanta, United Auto Workers vice president Terry Dittes declared the news "disappointing to UAW families and communities across this country."

"This is all happening while UAW-GM workers here in the U.S are laid off and unemployed," Dittes said in the statement released Thursday night. "We in the UAW have always supported products manufactured and produced in the U.S. and will continue to do so as a part of the fabric of our union.” 

GM says the decision to build the Blazer in Mexico was made at least two years ago, and that three plants were considered for Blazer production. Two of those plants were UAW shops in the U.S., but at the time the "future forecasts" saw those plants already at full capacity, a company spokesman said. The automaker declined to identify the plants in the U.S. it was considering for Blazer production.

Spokespeople for the Detroit automaker said the union likely knew of the production plans for the Blazer ahead of the Thursday announcement, but new leadership may not have been briefed. 

Dittes took over the union's GM department from Cindy Estrada after the UAW Constitutional Convention earlier this month. Both Dittes and Estrada were elected as part of new president Gary Jones's ticket at the convention, and Estrada was reassigned to the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV department.

The elections come about a year before the Detroit Three and the UAW return to the negotiating table to draft new collective bargaining agreements in the fall of 2019. 

Trump has taken an increasing harder line on punishing companies for manufacturing overseas. He has pushed for negotiating the terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement, declared tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum, and threatened punitive tariffs on vehicles from other countries, including Mexico and Canada.

On Friday morning, trade with Europe drew the ire of the president, who said in a tweet he wants a 20 percent tariff on all cars manufactured in Europe unless "Tariffs and Barriers are not soon broken down and removed."

Trump’s tweet came hours after the European Union responded to barriers to imported steel and aluminum with tariffs on about $3.3 billion of American products. Those tariffs cover about 200 categories and target American-identified products including Harley-Davidson motorcycles, Levi Strauss jeans and bourbon. 

Imposing tariffs on Europe would widen the president's ongoing trade skirmishes. He has promised to impose 25 percent tariffs on $34 billion in Chinese goods beginning on July 6, a move that China has promised to counter — including a 25 percent tariff on U.S.-made cars.

Twitter: @NoraNaughton