By on September 5, 2019

Mary Barra with Chevrolet Cruze, Image: GM

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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36 Comments on “Car Talk: GM’s Barra to Sit Down With Trump Thursday...”

  • avatar

    I’m hoping it goes like this:

    “Mary, you’re fired! Tell Mark Reuss he’s in charge now.”

    • 0 avatar

      … and I’m hoping we exile Trump to Greenland, along with his pathetic kids. Mary Barra is doing just fine, thank you, with plenty of late model GM SUV’s and light trucks filling driveways. We need White House meddling with automakers and union autoworkers like Trump needs another Pinochio-like nose.

      • 0 avatar

        He’s too busy to get exiled – he’s spearheading the post-hurricane cleanup in Alabama.

        • 0 avatar

          Maybe walls work on hurricanes? Apparently nukes don’t!

          • 0 avatar

            Perhaps a wall drawn with a Sharpie will work!…

            Seriously though, the Blazer could have been made in Lordstown. I get the idea that lower profit vehicles might need to be built w/o union labor, but the Blazer will likely be a high-profit product. GM would counter that they are entitled to build whatever they want wherever they want. And there are no guarantees that the Blazer will be a hit. But GM does owe this country – they would no longer be in existence without the US government bailing them out. I do agree that the bailout was in America’s best interest, but some more protections should have been put in place to ensure that the country would get more of a return on the bailout, not just the bigwigs, suppliers, and the new stockholders. Things like requiring a minimum percentage of manufacturing to be secured for American (or Canadien) factories could have been a mandatory provision for any assistance.

          • 0 avatar

            Funny thing is, Trump’s right, but he’s so busy making an a** of himself that he’s the wrong guy to do anything about it.

            Instead of punishing American companies with tariffs – which, by the way, also make it harder for average consumers to buy the stuff said American companies build – why not offer incentives to companies that expand American manufacturing employment? Or how about a tax break for consumers that buy American-made big-ticket goods? That’d seem to make sense to me. But apparently that wouldn’t pass muster with the America-first crowd, which seems bent on “sticking it to the furriners” versus doing stuff that would actually stick it to said furriners.

            Having said that, what can Trump – or any president – do when a company just decides to build stuff overseas? Not much, I fear. I suspect it’ll be up to consumers to demand higher American content, because the government can’t demand it and claim to be “pro-business.”

      • 0 avatar

        @ Golden2Husky Re: Blazer

        Do you have any idea how manufacturing works? You do realize the Blazer was planned YEARS in advance of Lordstown closing down.

        If not, just FYI….the Blazer was sourced to Ramos MX when Lordstown just launched (perhaps even pre-launch) the current Cruze and was running 2 shifts at FULL capacity. Each plant has a limit as to what it can produce and the Cruze and the Blazer would have both been high volume products at that plant. Ramos meanwhile is a low production plant that outside of the Blazer only builds overflow production of models from other plants also (Equinox & Cruze-frgn mkts). Don’t believe me? Look it up. In addition, each plant has an equipment set that is specifically designed to build a certain size/type of vehicle. The MX plant was perfectly sized for that type of vehicle since production of the previous gen Cadillac SRX was moved to Tennessee, USA. Lordstown was sized for a compact size vehicle. The investment required to convert Lordstown to build the Blazer WHILE STILL MAKING THE CRUZE would have been astronomical.

        GM and every other manufacturer OWES IT TO AMERICA to make decisions that are financially prudent, not to try and please an orange idiot. As such, the Blazer was sent to Ramos MX since it had an opening and made financial sense.

        But hey, what do I know…….?


        Golden2Husky – You don’t know what you’re talking ’bout

        • 0 avatar

          You’re probably right, but the optics of this are just AWFUL for GM.

        • 0 avatar

          Ok, tti. Substitute another location or build new or extensively modify, like GM did to Bowling Green. The point still is this product could have been built here. I get why they didn’t but that was part of the point. Such protections should have been part of the government life raft.

  • avatar

    I don’t think Mary is as clueless as some of the other chowderheads who have run GM as of late but I’m still not impressed with her. GM’s current line-up, to me, is about as exciting as lukewarm dishwater

    • 0 avatar

      That is about where I am at right now as well. GM’s lineup is not bad, but not great either. For the past year, I have kinda felt like Mary has overstayed her welcome.

      • 0 avatar

        ” I have kinda felt like Mary has overstayed her welcome.”

        Remember that Ms Barra was the unanimous choice of the Board to lead GM.

        Many industry analysts thought it was a great political move because NO ONE in the US gov’t would treat a lady with contempt or disrespect the way other (male) auto executives had been treated in the past. All, except Alan Mulally of course, who graciously turned down the offer of financial aid in 2009.

        No one has any hold over Ford, the ONLY American automaker left. That’s only one reason why the F150-series is the best selling vehicle in America.

        Ms Barra and her Mgt team have been calling all the right shots, made all the right decisions based on the facts and figures as they had interpreted them.

        The problem is that the buying public didn’t cooperate and buy GM products in the quantities needed to keep GM a profitable and self-sustaining business (like for instance Fiatsler).

        Ms Barra would be well advised not to treat President Trump as the fool that the fake news anti-Trump media makes him out to be but instead find common ground where GM can help President Trump attain his goals for America.

        You know, if President Trump were to tweet, “Buy a Chevrolet today!” or “GM needs your help now!”, millions of people would run to the nearest GM dealership and do just that, buy a GM product.

        • 0 avatar

          HDC, you are way too smart to write that last sentence. No way would that be the result of a tweet like that…

          • 0 avatar

            golden2husky, I meant my comment only as an illustration of the blind obedience and unquestioning loyalty bestowed on President Trump by his American fans and followers.

            Remember, I didn’t vote for the guy, but I am tickled pink that he is POTUS and has improved the lifestyle of me and mine.

            Even my wife, who has always been a dyed in the wool Blue Democrat and who’s father at one time was the Democratic Chair of the NM Democratic Party, has admitted to me, while in the throes of passion with me, that life under Trump has been magnanimous, magnificent and filled with luxury we have never experienced in over 53 years of marriage.

            There’s something to be said for a $9600+ tax refund, and those forced $4000+ annuity payouts that just keep on comin’.

            I’m not kidding. It’s true. And the same goes for millions of other Americans.

            For a huge number of American citizens Happy Days Are Here Again.

            And if President Trump wants me to buy a GM product, who in hell am I to disagree with him?

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            “There’s something to be said for a $9600+ tax refund, and those forced $4000+ annuity payouts that just keep on comin’.”

            Wouldn’t know and frankly if I am going to continue to write the giant check I do every April 15th we may as well have Liz Warren or one of “The Squad” or whatever.

            Honestly, if you are getting a larger refund than you pay in every year you are part of the problem…taxes credits should be able to take you to zero liability…not beyond. That is simple good old fashioned wealth redistribution.

            And if you are getting the refund because you are overpaying your taxes by like 10 grand I want to borrow some money too. Zero interest loans are great. I’ll even act like I am doing you a favor in repaying it. Thats pretty much what Uncle Sam does.

            This and this reason alone is why I hope the reinstate the BEV credit for Teslas (It is a terrible idea, just one that would happen to benefit me for a change). I may as well get in on that sweet redistribution action myself. At least it’ll just be me redistributing some of my own freaking taxes to myself.

        • 0 avatar

          “You know, if President Trump were to tweet, “Buy a Chevrolet today!” or “GM needs your help now!”, millions of people would run to the nearest GM dealership and do just that, buy a GM product.”

          …yeah, getting high for the first time was a game-changer for me too, HDC… :)

          • 0 avatar


            It’s so depressing, I’d like to start a non-profit dedicated to vigorously publicizing the less than heroic, and heroic actions of corporations.

            At this point, GM is irrelevant enough to let die. Hyundai, Kia and others can pickup the pieces at scrap auctions, hopefully saving the C8 Vet (and offering a manual transaxle!).

          • 0 avatar

            Well, Ms Barra and the President had their meeting today, but no one is leaking what they talked about, nor what was resolved, if anything, according to NBR this evening.

            I don’t know if this is a good thing for either party so we’ll just have to stay tuned and see what actions, if any, GM will be taking within the next two weeks.

            My money is on President Trump because he is not easily intimidated, if ever at all.

            And yeah, I’m serious. If President Trump calls on his fans, followers and voter base to buy GM, I honestly believe that those who can, will.

            I’d swallow my pride and buy a GM product, if THIS President asked me to.

            I believe I owe him that much for improving MY lifestyle and accumulated wealth. With this guy I get to keep more of what I earned.

            I understand that not every American was as fortunate as I was but then again, in any situation there are winners and losers.

            I WAS on the losing side during the last administration. It’s nice to be on the winning side this time, hopefully for four more years after Nov 2020.

    • 0 avatar

      But you can randomly come across one of those soggy chunks of food that then wrap around your fingers as you try scouring away. That’s exciting.

    • 0 avatar

      I think that describes any number of lineups these days, though…

  • avatar

    I’ll be waiting for the early morning tweet, ” Mary Barra is a NASTY NASTY woman. Send her back!”

  • avatar

    I can just predict it now.

    1) Mr. President, we need you to remove tariffs from china so we can keep buying cheap crap parts, the engineering of which was ripped off from the United States, the assembly of which was performed by slave labor, the environmental impact of which is of zero importance and can be dumped into the air and water at-will, and we like dealing with a government that has absolute control over all people and businesses in the country. If you don’t do this, we won’t make as much money. We already invested there and moving back will just be too expensive.

    2) Mr. President we need you to mandate people buy electric vehicles and the rest need to be banned. If not that, then we need Uncle Sam to hand out mad cash (yo!) to people to entice them to purchase vehicles that otherwise have zero chance of selling in any sort of free market. Mr. President, have you ever heard of the term “regulatory capture”? (wink wink)

    I don’t wish badly upon GM but I am sick of this kinda crap, and as far as I can tell they’re the worst of the American (including FCA) companies when it comes to this stuff. Worst at exporting American jobs, worst at supplying 3rd world crap, and worst at coming to Washington and the taxpayers with their hands open.

    Screw them. This has nothing to do with the occupant of the White House. This has everything to do with GM trying to make their money in a corrupt, backstabbing, crooked manner. I have no respect for it.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I doubt GM will be sold off in pieces to Hyundai and Kia. More likely that GM eventually becomes a Chinese company. GM is not bleeding money so they will be around for many years the question should be who will eventually own them.

  • avatar

    The picture reminds how that first gen Cruze was a nice car. Then gen 2 came along and they went backwards.

  • avatar

    Barra can’t be GM CEO forever. When she is gone hopefully normalcy will return to this once proud company. She has caused immense damage to GM. Even GM large truck have fallen behind the competition from FCA.

    According to Lutz GM interiors have reverted back to early 1990s cheapness. Barra has cut GM to the bone in her quest profitablity over quality. GM now has two SUVs on consumer reports ten least reliable list.

    When will this all end?

  • avatar

    Oohhh, Trumps name in the headline? Cue the baby raging baby killers and all their brownshirt comrades. Yawn.

  • avatar

    “Ms Barra and her Mgt team have been calling all the right shots, made all the right decisions based on the facts and figures as they had interpreted them.

    The problem is that the buying public didn’t cooperate and buy GM products in the quantities needed to keep GM a profitable and self-sustaining business (like for instance Fiatsler).”

    So Barra made all the right decisions, except for the little problem of building desirable vehicles? Is this a sincere argument?

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      Exactly. There was a time GM trucks combined would outsell Ford. Now they are loosing ground to RAM. The only thing they build that can be said to be truly class leading is the Corvette which is a niche product. If you are a domestic automaker you really only have to get your trucks right, but you absolutely must get them right. Under her watch GM has failed here and for that alone she probably needs to go.

  • avatar

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

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      I wish they’d have left them alone circa 2008 when we were shoveling tax dollars at them sadly they didn’t and as such the “leave GM alone” ship has sailed. Sorry, you don’t get to owe your existence to the US taxpayer and then play the “leave us alone” game.

      • 0 avatar

        The money may have been wasted on GM, but that was the past. We do not live in a communist or fascist state; so it is time to leave them alone. And yes, if they go bankrupt again, then we should also leave them alone.

        • 0 avatar
          Art Vandelay

          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.

  • avatar

    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.

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