Car Talk: GM's Barra to Sit Down With Trump Thursday

car talk gms barra to sit down with trump thursday

General Motors CEO will meet with U.S. President Donald Trump and White House officials on Thursday to discuss the state of the automotive industry, trade issues, and the fuel economy rollback. We imagine it’ll go much differently than their first meeting in Washington.

Perpetually concerned with economic threats arising from China, Trump has come down hard on automakers in the past. These days, his favorite punching bag happens to be GM. The automaker’s strong presence in China has forced it to make commitments there. On this side of the Pacific, the automaker has shuttered production facilities in Michigan, Ohio, and Maryland while continuing to manufacture vehicles in Mexico — something the UAW has been exceptionally critical of going into contract negotiations.

GM was chosen as the initial target in the latest round of UAW-Detroit Three bargaining. While the automaker’s industrial footprint in the U.S. is much larger than in Mexico or China, boasting more factories and a bigger workforce, it’s been an ongoing issue. The UAW has been particularly critical of the Chevrolet Blazer, arguing the crossover should could have been produced in America at a time when GM was deciding to close Lordstown Assembly in Ohio.

That’s left the union with a strange ally in the president. His problems with General Motors (and other automakers) seem to echo UAW’s concerns perfectly. However, one wonders how productive his talk with Barra can actually be after seeing some of his comments going into it.

“General Motors, which was once the Giant of Detroit, is now one of the smallest auto manufacturers there. They moved major plants to China, BEFORE I CAME INTO OFFICE,” Trump tweeted last week. “This was done despite the saving help given them by the USA. Now they should start moving back to America again?”

Soon, every media outlet on the planet caught the gaffe and published information we already know — GM is actually one of the biggest automakers on the planet. However, after spending over an hour wondering what made him think otherwise, we think we may have an answer. Based on the tweet’s timing, it seems likely that Trump was referencing a Bloomberg study that showed GM now employs fewer union-represented American workers than either of its domestic rivals.

Previously the country’s largest employer, General Motors’ domestic endeavors shrunk as the company become more of a global entity. It was also bloated going into the 2008 financial crisis. Before filing for bankruptcy in 2009, GM was furiously spinning off parts of the business in a bid to save itself. Once the time came to bite the financial bullet, it cut thousands of workers and closed numerous plants. While not facing the same economic hardships in 2019, GM is presently in the midst of a widespread restructuring effort — this time with the aim of future-proofing itself.

According to Reuters, the White House says the meeting with Barra will take place Thursday afternoon in the Oval Office, but neither General Motors nor Washington seems willing to hint at the topics to be covered. Negotiations with the UAW will, undoubtedly, be brought up. Existing contracts expire on September 14th and GM will likely face the brunt of the union’s wrath. Trump will almost certainly ask Barra why GM can’t keep more of its business inside the U.S., as it’s something he’s harped on continuously since taking office. He’s also previously asked GM not to join Ford and a handful of other automakers in backing deal with California for stricter fuel economy standards against the backdrop of his administration’s rollback attempt.

[Image: General Motors]

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  • Robbie Robbie on Sep 06, 2019

    I hope Trump leaves GM alone. If they want to make cars in China, then let them. We live in an interconnected world now.

    • See 2 previous
    • Art Vandelay Art Vandelay on Sep 07, 2019

      @Robbie We also don't live in a crony state so leaving them alone means not granting them special exemptions from tariffs levied on countries in which they build vehicles or source parts to build vehicles. She'll have her say in 2 years on this policy with every other voter. I am unsympathetic however. GM reaped the profits of building and sourcing in these low cost countries so now that's it's gone a little sour they can be left alone to deal with it.

  • ToolGuy ToolGuy on Sep 08, 2019

    This would've been an interesting meeting to watch. GM has a ~1980's business model. Trump has a ~1950's understanding of globalization. They would need multiple translators and would still talk past each other.

  • 285exp I am quite sure that it is a complete coincidence that they have announced a $7k price increase the same week that the current administration has passed legislation extending the $7k tax credit that was set to expire. Yep, not at all related.
  • Syke Is it possible to switch the pure EV drive on and off? Given the wonderful throttle response of an EV, I could see the desirability of this for a serious off-roader. Run straight ICE to get to your off-roading site, switch over the EV drive during the off-road section, then back to ICE for the road trip back home.
  • ToolGuy Historical Perspective Moment:• First-gen Bronco debuted in MY1966• OJ Simpson Bronco chase was in 1994• 1966 to 1994 = 28 years• 1994 to now = 28 yearsFeel old yet?
  • Ronnie Schreiber From where is all that electricity needed to power an EV transportation system going to come? Ironically, the only EV evangelist that I know of who even mentions the fragile nature of our electrical grid is Elon Musk. None of the politicians pushing EVs go anywhere near it, well, unless they are advocating for unreliable renewables like wind and solar.
  • FreedMike I just don’t see the market here - I think about 1.2% of Jeep drivers are going to be sold on the fuel cost savings here. And the fuel cost savings are pretty minimal, per the EPA: https://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/PowerSearch.do?action=noform&path=1&year1=2022&year2=2022&make=Jeep&baseModel=Wrangler&srchtyp=ymm&pageno=1&rowLimit=50Annual fuel costs for this vehicle are $2200 and $2750 for the equivalent base turbo-four model. I don’t get it.
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