Sixty years ago imported (or “foreign”) cars were an interesting if not important part of the U.S. auto market. If you wanted to go exotic you could get a Mercedes-Benz through the local Studebaker dealer, and of course everybody thought the VW Beetle was cute but not what you’d call a family car if you were used to driving a Ford Country Squire with room for nine passengers and a dog. Japanese cars? Are you kidding?
Well, that was then, and so was Ike and the Edsel. Today the American car market is dominated by vehicles whose headquarters may be in Tokyo or Seoul but who build them here to the point that they’re exporting cars built in Ohio back to Japan. Not only that, they have taught the American manufacturers how they did it, and now if you buy a Ford or Buick chances are it has parts brought in from their factories overseas (my 2007 Mustang’s engine is from Germany) and even certain models are badge-engineered to look and sound like American cars.
But apparently this represents a national security threat to some dipshit in the White House.
A US Commerce Department report has concluded that American auto imports threaten national security, setting the stage for possible tariffs by the White House, two people familiar with the matter said Thursday.
The investigation, ordered by President Donald Trump in May, is “positive” with respect to the central question of whether the imports “impair” US national security, said a European auto industry source.
“It’s going to say that auto imports are a threat to national security,” said an official with another auto company.
The report, which is expected to be delivered to the White House by a Sunday deadline, has been seen as a major risk for foreign automakers.
Trump has threatened to slap 25 percent duties on European autos, especially targeting Germany, which he says has harmed the American car industry.
Toyota is neither amused or impressed.
“Today’s proclamation sends a message to Toyota that our investments are not welcomed, and the contributions from each of our employees across America are not valued,” the company said.
The statement says Toyota has 10 manufacturing plants in the United States, some 1,500 dealerships, an extensive supply chain and directly and indirectly employs 475,000 US workers.
“Most every American has a Toyota story and we are very proud of the fact that over 36 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles are still on U.S. roads today. Our operations and employees contribute significantly to the American way of life, the U.S. economy and are not a national security threat.”
But Trump promised those workers at the Studebaker plant he’d save their jobs, and by golly he’s gonna do it.
PS: The last Studebaker plant to build cars for the U.S. market was in Canada.