Trump hopes GM will follow Ford, Fiat Chrysler moves

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

At his first news conference since July, President-elect Donald Trump heaped praise on automakers Ford and Fiat Chrysler for pledging to expand their business in Michigan, adding that he hopes General Motors Co. “will be following.”

Trump referenced the recent news that Fiat Chrysler is adding 2,000 new jobs and investing $1 billion in plants in Michigan and Ohio to produce new Jeep vehicles.

But the Republican New York businessman misstated the details, saying FCA would build a new factory when it is investing in existing facilities. He also suggested that Ford is pulling out of Mexico, when Ford will still produce its Focus model at an existing plant there.

“A lot of car companies are going to be moving in,” Trump said, promising more jobs news in coming days.

“You saw yesterday, Fiat Chrysler — big, big factory going to be built in this country, as opposed to another. Ford just announced that they stopped plans for a billion dollar plant in Mexico, and they’re going to be moving into Michigan and expanding very substantially an existing plant. I appreciate that from Ford. I appreciate that very much from Fiat Chrysler.

“I hope that General Motors will be following. I think they will be.”

Mark Reuss, GM’s head of global product development, speaking Wednesday at an automotive conference in Detroit, said the company is open to talking with Trump and his administration. The automaker’s decisions on plant investments and product placement typically are done two to four years in advance.

“We’re looking at everything as we always do,” he said. “This is a very fluid allocation of production process that we’re in all the time.”

Trump earlier this month tweeted about GM sending Mexican-built Cruze Hatchbacks to the U.S. GM builds the Cruze sedans at its Lordstown Assembly Plant in northeast Ohio.

Reuss called Lordstown “pretty full” from a tooling standpoint and said moving the Cruze Hatchback from Mexico to Lordstown is “not an overnight decision.”

On Sunday, GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra the automaker did not plan to change its current production plans for the Cruze Hatchback, .

Trump on Wednesday restated his threat that U.S. businesses that take American jobs outside the United States and want to sell their goods back to America would face steep border taxes.

“The word is now out that when you want to move your plant to Mexico or some other place, and you want to fire all your workers from Michigan and Ohio and all these places that I won — for good reason — it’s not going to happen that way anymore,” Trump said at his news conference in the lobby of Trump Tower.

“You can move from Michigan to Tennessee, and to North Carolina and South Carolina. You can move from South Carolina back to Michigan,” he continued. “I don’t care as long as it’s within the borders of the United States. There will be a major border tax on these companies that are leaving and getting away with murder.”

Trump has repeatedly said he wants to impose a 35 percent tariff on Mexican-made goods unless the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico is renegotiated. There is no tariff now on most goods traded between the three countries.

But the president-elect said in two separate Detroit News interviews during the campaign that the tariff he envisions levying on Mexican-made vehicles could be as low as 10 percent. He brought up the lower number himself.

“The tariff is going to be a block for them leaving” the United States, Trump told The News in September about U.S. automakers shifting production to Mexico. “In other words, if they have to pay a certain tax — and it doesn’t have to be 35 percent, it could be 10 percent — but if they’re going to have to pay a tariff or tax to bring the cars back (into the U.S.), they’re not going to leave.”

Trump would have to give six months’ notice to pull out of NAFTA. Creating a tariff on Mexican-made cars and trucks would require congressional approval.

Trump predicted that “a lot of industries” will be returning to the United States to make investments and create jobs here. He said business leaders would not be making these moves had he not won the November election but they’d be investing in other countries.

“There’s a great spirit going on right now. A spirit that, many people have told me, they’ve never seen before,” Trump said. “I will be the greatest jobs producer that God ever created. I mean that. I’m going to work very hard on that.”

Trump fondly recalled the “beautiful scene” on Election Day when returns began coming in from states he wasn’t expected to win, such as Michigan. He won the state by 10,704 votes over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

“We focused very hard on those states, and they really reciprocated,” Trump said. “And those states are going to have a lot of jobs, and they’re going to have a lot of security. They’re going to have a lot of good news for their veterans.”

Trump announced he had selected Obama nominee David Shulkin, the current undersecretary of health for at the Department of Veteran Affairs, to lead the agency and serve in Trump’s Cabinet as VA secretary.

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Staff Writer Melissa Burden contributed to this report.