By on July 18, 2017

Old Assembly Factory floor

Despite President Trump having initially framed his proposed NAFTA renegotiations as a hardline “America First” endeavor, the administration’s stance has soften significantly. In a recent summary of objectives, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer highlighted fairness as the key issue throughout.

Absent were any mention of abandoning the deal if certain conditions were not met and the steep tariffs previously alluded to by the president. In fact, any mention of tariffs specifically targeted their reduction or elimination — for both imported and exported goods. There are, however, numerous examples that reaffirm the Trump administration’s earlier objectives and a handful of inclusions that should please domestic automakers. (Read More…)

By on July 9, 2017

pumping fuel

Automakers’ ability to adhere to the regulatory standards set by the U.S. government are beginning to slip. Manufacturers predicted industry-wide economy inadequacies for 2016 model year vehicles, anticipating things would only worsen for 2017. The Trump administration has framed itself as a friend to automotive companies, with the president himself claiming he would remove regulatory hurdles while in office. Corporate economy guidelines established under President Obama are already under review, but now so are the penalties companies would have to pay for not meeting them.

In a regulatory filing on Friday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it would be seeking public comment on how to revise plans, slated to go into effect from the 2019 model year, which would more than double the penalties on auto manufacturers that fall short of meeting the government-set economy targets.  (Read More…)

By on June 30, 2017

BMW Spartanburg Assembly Plant Factory

As the Trump administration applies pressure to encourage companies to manufacture goods within U.S. borders and bolster American employment (or potentially face towering tariffs), the president has more recently come out against foreign automakers directly. In late May, Trump responded to criticism from German Chancellor Angela Merkel by accusing her country of having a trade surplus with the United States — claiming its automakers send vehicles to North America while providing little else. Trump has levelled similar criticism at China.

However, there’s a problem with his assertion. Foreign companies may not always contribute the majority of their wealth towards improving the U.S. economy, but they do invest heavily into the country. In fact, a recent analysis of federal jobs data shows two-thirds of the 656,000 manufacturing jobs created between 2010 and 2014 can be attributed directly to foreign investment.

Accurate employment figures for the following years aren’t yet available. But, with an additional $700 billion in capital coming in from non-domestic sources, total foreign investment reached $3.7 trillion by the end of 2016 — a new record.  (Read More…)

By on June 27, 2017

crash test dummies
We knew the Trump administration wanted to deregulate the automotive industry in order to free it from any production hangups, be it imagined or genuine. However, some of the items under consideration for potential elimination are safety features that seem silly to go without. At the top of that list is the requirement that all electrically driven vehicles must emit noise to alert pedestrians to their presence.

However, this isn’t the only safety feature at risk of becoming an optional extra. In budget documents provided to Congress, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration specified it is considering six separate areas for deregulation. Those include the modern standard for rear-view mirrors and backup cameras in passenger cars, mandatory electronic stability-control units for heavy trucks, and a rule allowing car dealers to install switches to deactivate airbags in customer vehicles.

While some of the rules could be abolished entirely, others are more likely to undergo some gentle retooling to provide automakers greater flexibility. Automakers have long pressed for the revamp of some antiquated, NHTSA-administered safety standards in order to permit the introduction of newer technologies. Still, eliminating any safety mandate is likely to raise the ire of consumer safety advocates, whether the end goal is well-intentioned or not.  (Read More…)

By on June 22, 2017

us-capitol, public domain

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said on Wednesday there was no definitive timeline for completing NAFTA trade renegotiations. Discussions haven’t even begun between the United States, Canada, and Mexico but legislators and executives have already warned prolonged negotiations would likely be detrimental to their interests.

The automotive industry is mainly seeking a swift and unambiguous update that doesn’t rock the boat too severely. Every day there is no consensus on the trade agreement is another day it has to postpone large investments. Ideally, the U.S. wants the redrawn NAFTA to prioritize its workforce and industry, while the Trump administration aims to tax imports and force companies to do more business within its borders. But, with nothing finalized, many automakers are in a holding pattern. Volkswagen, for example, is putting off decisions on major U.S. investments until it becomes clearer what course NAFTA will take.  (Read More…)

By on June 2, 2017

Donald Trump, public domain

On Thursday, President Trump made the decision to ditch the Paris climate accord and the entire internet seemingly spent the next twelve hours calling it a misstep. Either the president possesses a hidden wisdom on the subject that nobody else can seem to fathom, or he has severely misjudged the public’s position on environmental issues. Calling the accord “unfair at the highest level to the United States,” Trump suggested the deal was detrimental to the country’s manufacturing efforts and gave other nations a financial advantage.

However, the instant feedback from the automotive industry did not appear to share his viewpoint. With nearly 200 other countries still adhering to the nonbinding Paris agreement, it’s almost as if Trump had forgotten car companies operate on a global stage. Both General Motors and Ford Motor Company issued statements in opposition to Trump’s decision.

“We believe climate change is real, and remain deeply committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in our vehicles and our facilities,” announced Ford. “Our commitment to sustainability is why we’re investing so heavily in electrification and adding 13 new electrified vehicles to our lineup.” (Read More…)

By on May 31, 2017

Donald Trump, public domain

President Donald Trump has said he’ll be providing his thoughts on the Paris climate deal in the coming days, but media outlets are already suggesting his take on the issue will be to leave it. Sources are claiming the president’s mind is made up and, to the surprise of no one, odds are good he will withdraw the U.S. from the deal.

Trump has already made it his mission to overturn as many Obama-related policies as possible and seems unconcerned with environmental issues that might stand in the way of potential manufacturing opportunities. Since taking office, Trump has been pushing regulators to rethink the United States’ auto emission guidelines, undoing one of the previous administration’s final acts in office.

Pulling out of the Paris accord would fulfill a campaign promise and negate the need for the U.S. to adhere to rigid emission standards — at the expense of further alienating the president from Europe’s leadership.   (Read More…)

By on May 18, 2017

us-capitol

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross want to begin formal talks to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico in a little over three months, adhering to the campaign pledges made by President Donald Trump last year. Ross explained to reporters that “sometime in the next couple of weeks” he will issue a notice to Congress stating the Trump administration intends to start formal NAFTA negotiations in just 90 days.

However, since he expressed his intentions in front of a gaggle of reporters, Congress is probably already aware. But it won’t be “official” until they get a piece of paper signed by the appropriate parties on the applicable letterhead — hopefully, embossed with a fierce-looking eagle surrounded by dollar signs.  (Read More…)

By on May 12, 2017

robert_lighthizer 2017

I hope you’re fond of domestic automobiles.

The Trump administration is setting the table to make importing cars more difficult with the U.S. Senate confirming Robert Lighthizer in an 82-14 vote as the U.S. trade representative, prepping the country for an assertive trust from the White House’s America First trade strategy. (Read More…)

By on May 9, 2017

bob king

The former president of the United Automobile Workers, Bob King, says he supports President Trump’s plan to reconfigure the North American Free Trade Agreement — so long as it maintains labor’s best interests. Ironically, King’s support of the president’s trade plan came as he attended an Ann Arbor rally in support of an EPA testing facility in danger of being closed due to Trump administration budget cuts.

King, who served as the union’s president from 2010 to 2014, faults the trade pact for a loss of American jobs. It’s his belief that NAFTA allowed automakers to invest in more-affordable regions — like Mexico — at the expensive of the United States’ workforce. His successor, Dennis Williams, has echoed these claims and also wishes to see NAFTA reformed.  (Read More…)

By on May 1, 2017

Ford badge emblem logo

Ford Motor Company thinks it has the answers for the impending renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of the Americas, believes the key to an updated NAFTA includes protections against currency manipulation and the standardization of product regulation between the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

Of course, Hinrichs is just one voice of many. Despite his initial threat of NAFTA’s abolishment failing to pan out, President Trump has maintained a hardline stance — stating he will negotiate a better deal for the U.S. (or pull out if he can’t). Meanwhile, Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown has urged for transparency throughout the process while echoing some of Trump’s campaign promises to stick up for American jobs by not showing favoritism or allowing industries to play against each other.

By contrast, Hinrichs’ proposals are specifically focused on streamlining the auto industry and avoiding long-standing complications associated with financial witchcraft.  (Read More…)

By on April 27, 2017

pumping-gas fuel

A slew of automakers are scheduled for a Thursday meeting with the heads of the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Transportation to go over existing Obama-era efficiency rules. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt will both be on hand to discuss — and likely reassure — manufacturers on the future of the guidelines.

In March, President Donald Trump ordered an extensive review of U.S. light vehicle fuel-efficiency standards for the 2022-2025 time frame, despite the Obama administration locking them in well ahead of the midterm review’s April 2018 deadline. The decision was rushed to maintain the administration’s climate change policy and avoid any tampering from incoming Trump appointees. While there remains much to be done before the standing emission limits can be rolled back, wheels are now in motion.  (Read More…)

By on April 19, 2017

saic-motor-mg-crossover

SAIC Motor, China’s largest state-owned automotive manufacturer, is canceling its plans to export vehicles into North America. Likely fearful of the current administration’s trade proposals, SAIC is blaming President Donald Trump for its hesitation to enter the Western market.

Of course, the Chinese automaker isn’t ruling anything out entirely. Michael Yang, the executive director of SAIC’s international division, explained at the Shanghai motor show that the company might resume its plans for U.S. expansion once trade tensions ease between the two countries. As the Trump administration hasn’t exactly celebrated the idea of imported goods and foreign manufacturing, it could be a long wait. In the meantime, SAIC Motor will be focusing its efforts on the European market.  (Read More…)

By on April 18, 2017

Out of Patience Fuel Gauge Mug

Not to go all political on you, but it’s amazing how President Obama acted more like a bitter foreclosure victim — one who goes nuts and destroys as much of the house as they can, just short of being arrested for vandalism — during his last days in office, and not a graceful man given two terms as the leader of the free world.

Mr. Obama did this in two ways: one action affected a short list of government folk, and the other impacted one of the most important industries in our lives — the auto industry.

The short-listed government victims are those affected by Obama’s order to share dirt on people talking with “foreigners.” It’s against the law — but when did that stop the former President? What’s worse, and perhaps deadly, is Mr. Obama’s decision to renege on his promise to check and perhaps re-adjust the daunting future Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard his administration first put in place in 2009, which the administration made even wackier in 2011.

(Read More…)

By on April 9, 2017

ford-raptor-china

Ford’s Mark Fields had plenty of positive things to say about last week’s meeting between Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping. After spending months of his campaign accusing China of stealing American jobs, Trump left the conference optimistic at the prospect of improving the relationship between the two countries.

That’s welcome news for Ford, which wants to dramatically expand its presence in Asia over the coming years. The automaker has already decided to launch Lincoln models in the Asian market, hoping to piggyback off Buick and Cadillac’s success in China. On Thursday Fields also outlined a company decision to have 70 percent of all Ford nameplates sold in China by 2025 be part or fully electric — helping the company meet stricter emission standards and maintain volume in the East.  (Read More…)

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