Trade War Watch: U.S. Public to Have a Say on Auto Import Threat

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

There was a mighty blowback against the Trump administration’s suggestion to elevate tariffs to as much as 25 percent on all foreign-built passenger vehicles.

Already reeling from fresh import fees on aluminum and steel, Europe expressed its collective distaste on new taxes while Japan vowed to plead a strong case for itself. Meanwhile, prominent politicians and two of the largest automotive trade groups in the country came forward to condemn the plan, stating it was “confident that vehicle imports do not pose a national security risk” to the United States.

While the administration has already launched its investigation to determine whether vehicle and auto part importers threaten the industry’s health and ability to develop advanced technologies, the government noted that a second opinion wouldn’t hurt. Announced on Tuesday in the Federal Register, the the Commerce Department will allot two days in July for public comments on the matter.

“There is evidence suggesting that, for decades, imports from abroad have eroded our domestic auto industry,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement last week. Still, he promises to conduct a “thorough, fair and transparent investigation.”

According to Reuters, the issue may not be as clear-cut as Ross suggests. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce says U.S. auto production has doubled over the past decade, adding that it’s worried the tariffs “would deal a staggering blow to the very industry it purports to protect and would threaten to ignite a global trade war.”

As for public opinion, the Commerce Department wants to hear from individuals on whether “innovation in new automotive technologies is necessary to meet projected national defense requirements,” as well as comments on the “displacement of any domestic automobiles and automotive parts causing substantial unemployment, decrease in the revenues of government, loss of investment or specialized skills and productive capacity.”

It hopes to gain clarity as to the role domestic production plays in national defense, and if foreign-owned factories influence that issue in a meaningful way. Written comments are due by June 22nd, with rebuttal comments scheduled for July 6th. Public hearings take place in Washington on July 19th and 20th.

[Image: Ken Lund/ Flickr ( CC BY-SA 2.0)]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

More by Matt Posky

Join the conversation
4 of 36 comments
  • Seanx37 Seanx37 on May 31, 2018

    Does this include Canada and Mexico? Because GM, Ford, and FCA are out of business in a month with tarriffs that large.

  • Voyager Voyager on May 31, 2018

    Security risk? What we have here is Detroit's failure to compete on markets outside the U.S., made worse by making CAFE and emission criteria less stringent under EPA idiot Pruitt. As a consequence, domestic market share has fallen too.

    • See 1 previous
    • Voyager Voyager on Jun 01, 2018

      @TW5 Yes, they do (the emission and efficiency criteria) - it's why American cars fall in higher tax brackets in the EU or are even unsalable altogether. Good example is the Mustang 5.0 V8. That one costs 120,000 euro in the country where I live, almost twice the price of a 4 cyl. 2.3 liter Mustang.

  • Jeff Tiny electrical parts are ruining today's cars! What can they ...
  • CEastwood From zero there is nowhere to go but up . BYD isn't sold in the U.S. and most Teslas are ugly azz 90s looking plain jane drone mobiles . I've only seen one Rivian on the road and it 's not looking good for them . I live out in the sticks of NW NJ and EVs just aren't practical here , but the local drag strip thrives in the warmer months with most cars making the trip from New York .
  • Lorenzo Aw, that's just the base price. Toyota dealers aren't in the same class as BMW/Porsche upsellers, and the Toyota base is more complete, but nobody will be driving that model off the lot at that price.
  • Mike The cost if our busing program is 6.2 million for our average size district in NJ. It was 3.5 last year.
  • Alan What an ugly vehicle..........and it was named a Mustang!