By on November 8, 2017

Donald Trump, public domain

On Monday, President Donald Trump requested that Japanese automakers consider assembling their vehicles in the United States. “Try building your cars in the United States instead of shipping them over. That’s not too much to ask,” Trump told Japanese auto executives during this week’s visit. “Is it rude to ask?”

While the internet response was to immediately scoff at how little Trump knew about the industry (Japanese companies have been building automobiles in North America for decades), the reality was far more nuanced.

Taken in the broader context, Trump actually said, “Several Japanese automobile industry firms have been really doing a job. And we love it when you build cars — if you’re a Japanese firm, we love it — try building your cars in the United States instead of shipping them over. Is that possible to ask? That’s not rude. Is that rude? I don’t think so.”

He then went out of his way to congratulate and thank Toyota and Mazda for investing $1.6 billion in the construction of a new manufacturing plant within the United States, which is estimated to create around 4,000 jobs. Trump also said that he wanted Japanese automakers to understand that the U.S. wants their business and would get the necessary approvals to manufacture within the country, thanking them repeatedly for having “confidence in the United States.”

While painting the president as a bit of a bullish ass isn’t particularly hard to do, we don’t want automotive news misrepresented. It wasn’t a perfect meeting, as he did subtly hint that Japan could be doing more in North America. But he does seem to be aware of where the industry is spending its money and setting up shop over the last few decades. We know that because he said so.

The point of the meeting was to drum up more business in the West and earn some goodwill, and he may have actually achieved that, despite the widespread mischaracterization of how the encounter actually went. Some outlets were, thankfully, a little more objective — with The Washington Post being among the first.

Some criticism is fair, as Japan already accounts for one-third of all domestic production in the U.S. Perhaps the country is already doing enough, considering a majority of what its automakers sell in the West is also built there. But there is no indication that the president didn’t know that prior to his statements. Still, Trump has made some cringeworthy claims about German cars in the past — suggesting they were “very bad,” despite German automakers being the largest domestic exporter by value in the U.S.

However, the key to this meeting — and the cornerstone of America’s trade deficit with Japan — revolved around getting more North American autos sold out East. That’s something Japan has had major problems with in the past. “Our trade with Japan is not fair and it’s not open,” he said on Monday. “The U.S. has suffered massive trade deficits with Japan for many, many years.”

That first bit is debatable, and we’ve dug into that topic in the past. Our takeaway was that Japan simply isn’t interested in American automobiles, nor has it been since tailfins went out of style. So there’s plenty of room for improvement in the region. We don’t expect Trump’s visit to change anything but, just maybe, this could lay the groundwork for a more equitable exchange — but don’t count on it.

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68 Comments on “Real Fake News: Donald Trump and Where Japanese Manufacturers Choose to Build Their Cars...”


  • avatar
    Car Guy

    Pres Trump says a lot of dumb things. No question. But here’s another example of the media mis-quoting him to paint him in a negative light over something he never said. The headlines quote makes it sounds like he said they don’t build cars here which isn’t true. It’s sad I can no longer trust anything written in the US media and find myself heading over to Sky News or BBC. They are liberal leaning but at least don’t blatantly lie like the so call US “news”…..

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Fair observations, but isn’t this the guy who lived by the sound bite a year ago?

      Seems to me he’s hoisting himself on his own petard.

      • 0 avatar
        Car Guy

        The difference is the media paints themselves as being objective and a credible news source. I expect politicians to lie. I now have come to expect the US media to lie as well which wasn’t the case 20 years ago…..

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          Everyone lies, that is the problem. The right leaning media is just as guilty as the left.

          #NOcollusionpotus is for the most part a rolling train wreck. He says so much stupid sh!t that it is easy to overlook the occasional quasi-intelligent comment. It has been shown that when he has made “intelligent” comments, it means he has stuck to the script. I’m betting that when this trip is over and the day-care staff allows him unfettered access to his twitter account, we will see his orangeness cast a creepy glow once again.

          • 0 avatar
            Car Guy

            “The right leaning media is just as guilty as the left” – that’s exactly the problem. There never use to be a “right” or “left” media.

          • 0 avatar
            golden2husky

            Car guy, your point is valid. I thought that T-rump was unaware of what Japan manufactures in the US based on scanning the news. That is unfortunate – and unnecessary. Trump is more than capable of making himself look like a fool. He does not need any media help. If you read the articles, most fess up to the actual quote. But headlines should not be intentionally misleading.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            “easy to overlook the occasional quasi-intelligent comment”

            At this point Lou, I’m tempted to start reading your commentary on TTAC with the same approach.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            @gtem – #NOcollusionpotus is either incompetent as a leader or has an agenda that isn’t going to benefit the populace. In both cases, it isn’t good.
            Why, when confronted with a political ideology different than your own, the default position is to attribute a lower level of intelligence to that person?
            I’m sure you were all up in arms over Hillary’s “deplorables” comment.
            This is no different!

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            It’s the use of things like “#NOcollusionpotus” hashtags and
            “day-care staff allows him unfettered access to his twitter account, we will see his orangeness cast a creepy glow once again”

            That lead me to assume you have the same mental capacity for reasoned discussion and debate as the “Obango is secret Muslim” people. Prove me wrong. Hard to take folks like you seriously.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            @gtem – I wasn’t targeting anyone’s intellect other than that of the commander in chief.

            “Hard to take folks like you seriously.”

            Again, a difference of opinion politically is either from a lower intellect or not to be taken seriously.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            You’re literally just throwing schoolyard 5th-grade level insults at the president, very reminiscent of the “Obummer” sort of folks on the right. One can’t help but draw some conclusions. Feel free to prove me wrong.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            @gtem – “You’re literally just throwing schoolyard 5th-grade level insults at the president?”

            I’m just keeping my commentary at the same level of “Mr.President”. But then again, fifth grade is setting the bar very high!

            ……………………………………..

            “The 389 People, Places and Things Donald
            Trump Has Insulted on Twitter: A Complete List”
            https://www. nytimes. com/interactive/2016/01/28/upshot/donald-trump-twitter-insults.html

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            So you’re willfully sinking to the level of a (described by you) unintelligent/childish opponent? Nice.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            @gtem – “So you’re willfully sinking to the level of a (described by you) unintelligent/childish opponent? Nice.”

            All my comments have focused more specifically on what he has said or has done. I have not personally attacked anyone on this site.

            A basic rule of communication is that one must communicate “to” or “at” the level of the lowest common denominator.

            It is well documented that “Mr. President” communicates simplistically, does not have the attention span or vocabulary to comprehend complex topics, and gets many facts incorrect.

            I’m just communicating at his level because that is the level at which he functions. That means that YES, to communicate with someone like #45, you either need to suck up or stroke his ego, or as you put it, “willfully sinking to the level of a (described by you) unintelligent/childish opponent”.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            So it sounds like you’re operating under the assumption that Trump reads TTAC? You’ve really lost the plot.

            The point I’m trying to make is that generally TTAC has higher than average quality of discussion, even when things turn political (for the most part). In the past, you’ve struck me as one of those well spoken, intelligent people. When you start carrying on with all this “Drumpf Orange Cheeto” talk, you come across as someone of much lower intellect, quite frankly. Do you think these childish insults will somehow be effective in getting your point across to an audience of fairly mature, intelligent adults? I think what is more likely is that you are suffering from Acute Trump Derangement Syndrome, where normally rational and intelligent adults de-evolve into this playground banter. Correct me if I’m wrong.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            @gtem – as long as Drumph continues on the way he does, I will show zero respect for the man. The comment that triggered this conversation was in your eyes somehow less intelligent because I used a sarcastic reference to one of his talking points of which is under investigation. I’m not going to change the opinion of his core supporters even if I use PC language. Been there, tried that.

            We have had an interesting conversation and due to it I have a better understanding of you and where you stand. That is great and I do respect your opinion.

        • 0 avatar
          30-mile fetch

          “I now have come to expect the US media to lie as well which wasn’t the case 20 years ago”

          Tell me about it. Fox first aired in 1996. But with Steve Bannon we’ve finally got some honesty back.

          Anyway, the linked Slate article is a piece of crap using the intentional cherry-picked gotcha quote from the playbook of Hannity et al. It should be called out. This wasn’t necessary either; fact checking this administration is like shooting fish in a barrel.

    • 0 avatar
      TW5

      I find it suspicious that Clinton spent her tenure at the State Department destabilizing governments and toppling regimes. Immediately following her historic loss, the US is apparently the focus of a destabilization campaign, including counter-intelligence ops by the political establishment, and threats from Congressional Democrats to overturn the results of the 2016 election, if they win power in 2018.

      This is not a coincidence. There is something big going on behind the scenes, and the press is playing the role of propaganda, disinformation, and counter-intelligence for some entrenched bureaucratic faction that is fighting for its existence.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        @TW5 – blaming Hillary appears to be the default argument from one side of the political spectrum. There are those quickly jumping on that bandwagon and ironically, is is the side that has typically been anti-Russian/commie/socialist.

        Putin must be laughing his azz off on a daily basis.

        #NOcollusionpotus is like an STD that just keeps on giving and giving………….

        • 0 avatar
          redav

          Blaming Clinton for the things she’s actually done is political? Why?

          She tipped the scales for the destabilization of Libya.
          https://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/28/us/politics/hillary-clinton-libya.html

          Per Donna Brrazile’s new book, she’s responsible for making the DNC neither fair nor democratic.

          If only one side of the political aisle is blaming Clinton for the bad things she’s genuinely done, isn’t that an indictment against the silent party?

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            @redav – currently, one side of the isle is blaming Hillary as a means of deflection. The reason why democracies are important is because “bad things” can be routed out and corrected. The USA has become extremely partisan and the current potus has made things much worse. Both parties are guilty of silence. “isn’t that an indictment against the silent party?” That applies right across the board and your comment is correct.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          “But… but… HILLARY!” is nothing more than “look over there” misdirection which works depressingly well on some people.

      • 0 avatar
        vvk

        >This is not a coincidence. There is something big going on behind the scenes, and the press is playing the role of propaganda, disinformation, and counter-intelligence for some entrenched bureaucratic faction that is fighting for its existence.

        This is so obvious, it hurts.

    • 0 avatar
      billchrests

      How many Right Side Drive cars does the US Manufacturers produce for the Japan Market ?

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      *BREAKING NEWS* Trump performs vigorous fellatio on Chinese President Xi Jinping – we’re talking the whole shibang folks!

      He did not bow, but HE DID SWALLOW!!!

      Is it yet time to KEEP this ASSCLOWN FROM EMBARRASSING THE UNITED STATES ANY LONGER?

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        From tough campaign talk on China to an all nude lap dance!

        Art of The Deal!

        http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/the-daily-show-mocks-trump-chinese-president-xi-jinpings-relationship-bachelor-style/article/2640266#!

  • avatar
    Michael Kurzdorfer

    What a ignorant SOB !

  • avatar
    Mullholland

    The number you’re looking for is 39% of US auto production is built by Japanese companies.
    Some may find this recent article in the Atlantic worth a look:
    https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2017/11/us-cars-japan/544991/?utm_source=nl-atlantic-daily-110717&silverid=MzI5MDU1ODA0OTE5S0

  • avatar
    Duke Woolworth

    How ’bout the workers in Indiana, who are now building the Subaru Impreza, previously imported, alongside the Legacy and Outback, just as one of the latest examples? Do they count?

    • 0 avatar
      gottacook

      The ramp-up in production at Subaru Indiana is impressive; it’s been steadily growing for many years, as I just found out (http://subaru-sia.wixsite.com/indiana/production-volume). Not specified on that page is that part of the factory was used to build Isuzus and then Camrys, although it’s all Subarus today.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        I was just at the Lafayette plant, indeed a very impressive operation. I’m seeing more and more of the new body style Impreza locally. The hatchbacks look especially good, a bit more wagon-like and practical than in the past I think.

  • avatar
    EspritdeFacelVega

    A bigger question here is what exactly constitutes an American car. Assuming Japan won’t buy F-150s or Suburbans in any number, so really what is left? Mustangs and Camaros? On the global market most US-brand cars are niche products at best. Certain cars – some Mercedes and BMW SUVs, some Hondas, etc., are made in the US for global markets and exported in decent numbers. But the high dollar, other factors, will inevtiably come into play….

  • avatar
    AndyYS

    Give the Japanese (and the Koreans) a product they want at an attractive price and of course they’ll buy it!

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      But you really do need to tailor the product, and the associated services to the tastes of the local market.

      One article which describes this (and makes me miss Thomas Kreutzer’s fine writing) is here:
      https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2017/11/us-cars-japan/544991/

      I’d love to hear what Thomas Kreutzer has to say about the specifics in that article.

      But the broader point about catering to the customer’s expectations stands, even if I’d like to double-check the specifics about Japan.

  • avatar
    TW5

    I’m relieved this website is no longer a shadow PR firm for JAMA.

    Anyway, I don’t really care if Japan builds Lexus and other cars in the US or if they buy American goods and services. Regardless, the current arrangement of exporting raw materials (mainly energy) and importing finished goods isn’t going to fly.

    I guess this speech is evidence that the US has given up asking the Japanese to purchase American goods and services.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      It’s Trump. There’s non evidence of anything. Anything he says is just an old guy yelling at his TV, who somehow manage to get himself to the other side of the screen.

      Meanwhile, anyone with any actual expertise is either hiding their head in their hands or WTFing.

      I’ve tried to find insight in Trump’s words, and its just not there. Don’t twist yourself in knots trying to to find something that’s not there.

  • avatar

    Anyone see the stories about Trump rudely dumping a whole box of fish food into the koi pond? Some video was edited, and headlines were ran about “impatient “Trump causing great dishonor. The unedited video shows the Japanese Prime Minister and Trump feeding the fish with spoonfuls of food from the boxes they are holding. After a while, the prime minister dumps his whole box into the pond at once. Trump sees this and follows suit, dumping his box. Many sites used editing to hide the Prime minister dumping his box, so it looks like Trump got impatient and rude. Trump can certainly be rude at times, but any site that ran headlines blasting him for this cannot be trusted.

    • 0 avatar
      smartascii

      The subject of this article and your example are but two instances of this phenomenon. To be clear, I personally dislike the president immensely. And if he winds up a one-term president, or if he gets impeached, it’ll most probably be the consequence of his own actions. But when he gets it right, and the more often he gets it right, the better off we all are. And as liberal as I am, it seems to me that hoping for the president’s failure (or reporting failure when there is none) happens at the expense of the American people, and you really can’t hope for that and call yourself a patriot, no matter who’s in office.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        Clear communication is one of the pillars of leadership.

        Even if he only failed to communicate clearly, it’s still a failure on his part.

        I really miss having a president who could, not only complete a sentence, but put several sentences together to express a complete thought.

    • 0 avatar
      Flipper35

      They did that with the Rodney King video as well. Not that the officers weren’t wrong, but if they had shown Mr King breaking the handcuffs and fighting when they first tried to arrest him the context would have been completely different.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    The Japanese have never been fond of American products. The Chinese OTOH, are much more amenable to buying American, which is good as China is a much larger potential market.
    .
    .

    • 0 avatar
      threeer

      Except for the fact that the Chinese are fiercely protective of their own manufacturing while enjoying the massively tilted good fortunes of plying their goods in open markets like the US. Trump’s getting a few deals signed while in China, but it does zero to make any fundamental changes to the way trade is handled overall between China and the US. And why would they? Each year, we send well over $300B in extra trade to China, so why would they want any change to that? And they can have American goods…as long as they are made in China, by a company that was forced into a lopsided JV with a Chinese company while they checked all of their technological know-how at the door.
      And yes, it is ironic that some of the most “American” cars by both manufacturing location and content are Japanese nameplated. I’m all for more manufacturers turning to America to build their goods. I’d be okay with a Kentucky built Toyota or Ohio built Honda in my garage.

  • avatar
    whitworth

    They don’t even care about having any semblance of truth, it’s now just a game for the MSM to try and make the most absurd headline and “hot take” possible.

    But what the mainstream media inadvertently has accomplished is destroying their own credibility while they run around screaming with their hair on fire.

    Trump has said plenty of stupid things that they don’t need to make up anything, but they do anyway. So people are tuning out.

    • 0 avatar
      ttacgreg

      “Mainstream Media” is a huge broad brush term. It is painfully imprecise. Ideologues both left and right use it. Naming names and citing instances of bias or inaccuracy would be far more truthful, and a far less effective way for one to advance their particular ideological agenda.

      I have a friend who totally disses the MSM, and gets all of his news from Breitbart, Alex Jones, You Tube and his facebook feed. The shit he spews is at once ridiculous and frightening. I avoid current event and political discussions with him as much as possible because there is zero wiggle room in any discussions. He is right and everyone else is “asleep”. My stated allegiance to the rule of law and the Constitution had him labelling me as a willing slave to my captors. At least he is arguing with the flat earthers he engages with on Facebook, so there is that little glimmer of hope.
      All news outlets present facts and truths, including Infowars. Effective propaganda contains true facts to lend credibility to its misleading stuff . It takes a critical thinking and informed mind to sort out those truths.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      The vast majority in the US have tuned out. For those Americans who are happy with the way things are going with Trump as President, he can do no wrong.

      For all others, nothing he does is ever right. The Lefty Libbies’ vision for America is truly fvcked! Trump has already dismantled much of it, and more dismantling is on the way.

      Re the MSM: this group initiated all the hate and division when Trump announced he was a candidate for POTUS, way back in 2015. Remember all the snickering? Boy, were they ever wrong.

      Trump didn’t start all this crap. And he is doing his thing as President, remaking America in the image he won on.

      Man, if you’ve got an annuity, IRA, Keogh, or other long term investment, you should be doing cartwheels with tears of joy about the great financial tidings.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Good popcorn

  • avatar
    Advance_92

    Even in context there’s no coherent segue in Trump’s words. Guy’s either a moron or too many of his synapse have snapped.

  • avatar
    Mitchell Leitman

    Drum up more business in the “West”? Donald Trump doesn’t care a whit about the West. To him there’s the USA and the “rest”. You’ll never see him helping the rest.

  • avatar
    Robbie

    Has this website gone pro-Trump insane now? Aren’t we here on a website about cars?

    This is a case of lazy journalists. In their defense, it is natural for a journalist to presume that Trump lied, was unhinged, or was wildly incompetent, since that is the case in the overwhelming majority of instances.

    Lazy journalism is not at all on the same level of moral reprehensible as having a President who claims there are millions of illegal voters, claims Obama was born in Kenya, brags about grabbing women, had the largest inauguration crowd ever, claims the murder rate is the highest it has ever been, etc.etc.

    And now… back to cars, please.

    • 0 avatar
      AdamOfAus

      Lol, the hell. Did you make the same comment when negative stories about potus have been on this site?
      Or does it only bother you when someone points out an instant of inaccurate reporting on potus (of which there are many, all the time)?

    • 0 avatar

      Printing accurate quotations and placing them in their context is now “pro-Trump insane”?

      Your defense of lazy journalism boils down to you don’t care if you’re lied to as long as those lies confirm preexisting attitudes.

      You have problems with accuracy and justify lies, yet you call someone else morally reprehensible. This is a puzzlement.

    • 0 avatar
      vvk

      > lazy journalists.

      Not lazy. This goes on all day, every day.

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    Well… He made a lot of enemies with in the press. That’s his bed, he made it and now needs to lie in it. I am just glad he did not treat the Japanese as badly as he has the press.

    • 0 avatar
      AdamOfAus

      Can you blame him? The run up to the election was insanity.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        Yes, actually, I can blame him — because I could easily have avoided most of the gaffes he made.

        I’ve held down more than one job where saying ridiculous things in public would have gotten me fired. Trump wouldn’t be employable in most of the places where I’ve worked, and that’s before we even talk about sexual harassment.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Trump presidency is just one bad reality show. Maybe he has some good intentions but between his tweets and his off the cuff remarks his presidency is a disaster. Not a big Hillary fan but I keep hoping that Trump will become more presidential, but Trump is being Trump. At least Trump hasn’t barfed on Abe.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    “That’s his bed, he made it and now needs to lie in it.”

    He can’t lie in it until someone cleans up the hooker pee.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Trump’s biggest problem is that he’s a jerk. He could make the most reasonable request of the Japanese automakers or government and he’ll continue to be ridiculed because of his personality.

    Trump’s fans may like that he’s upsetting the apple cart, but what’s the point of getting elected if you can’t get anything done because no one trusts or respects you?

  • avatar

    I live in the Detroit area and Robert Farago first hired me here at TTAC in part to rebut the notion that the domestic automakers were completely incompetent. I’m a big booster of Detroit and Michigan.

    For the past decade or more I’ve been trying to tell my neighbors that we don’t build American cars in Detroit. We’re the center of a global industry that recognizes this region as such. One advantage that the U.S. has is we allow 100% foreign direct investment and the profts derived from those investments to be repatriated. That encourages companies to invest here. Mahindra is opening up an assembly plant to put together ATVs. Toyota has invested billions in their R&D and related facilities in Ann Arbor. Hyundai/Kia have their own R&D center nearby. M14 between Detroit and Ann Arbor is lined with foreign based businesses like Brembo and Denso has a pretty big facility in Southfield.

    It doesn’t surprise me that some in the media distorted Mr. Trump’s remarks. Every single day I see headlines that spin the news. Part of this is deliberate, part of this is inneptitude. Much of what we read as “news” is from secondary and tertiary sources at best. It’s a bit like the game of telephone where the message gets more garbled at every stage. When you work back to the original quotation in context it often doesn’t mean what the headline infers.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      @Ronnie Schreiber- part of the problem is the attention span of the typical person. No one wants to put the time and effort into fully reading up on a topic. Quick sound bites are flung about and nibbled upon. It is like dropping fish food into a goldfish tank.

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