By on April 10, 2019

Far away from most American cities, and unbeknownst to most consumers, a transportation bottleneck is stemming the flow of goods from Mexico to the United States.

Major border backups plagued Mexico-U.S. crossings this week, the result of threats made last week by President Donald Trump. While the president eventually backed off after suggesting the U.S. may resort to closing the border in order to stem the flow of migrants into the country, companies didn’t waste time shoehorning as much product into trucks as possible, eager to get their goods across the border.

This, coupled with a mass transfer of U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers from commercial to immigration duties, sent wait times soaring. For automakers (and avocado sellers), this could be a problem. (Read More…)

By on April 4, 2019

On Thursday, President Donald Trump threatened to impose tariffs on cars entering the United States from Mexico if the nation doesn’t assist Washington in dealing with the migrant situation at its southern border. It’s a rather bold ultimatum, coming hot on the heels of claims that the White House was seriously considering closing the border entirely if Mexico could not curtail the flow of illegal immigrants and drugs heading north.

It’s an interesting situation, especially considering both outcomes would upend the automotive industry. But Trump argues that the growing reliance on Mexican manufacturing and proliferation of illegal immigrants has already hurt the United States badly. A contentious stance, for sure, but these are issues in need of thorough discussion. Gallup polls repeatedly peg immigration as one of the issues voters care most about — along with healthcare and the economy.

However, we only care about those things tangentially. It’s all about the cars for us.  (Read More…)

By on March 29, 2019

Of all the things that automakers hate, losing money has to hold a permanent place at the top of the list. If you aren’t making money, you can’t keep building cars — and if you aren’t building cars then you’re not much of an automaker. Following that almost irresponsibly oversimplified logic, it’s no wonder the industry has been hesitant to endorse President Trump’s suggestion that the United States may need to enact new import tariffs.

While seemingly eager eager to provide manufacturers with the tools to get things done, the current administration clearly wants it done in America — and isn’t above punishing those who refuse to reciprocate. As a result, lobbyists have begun putting in some overtime.   (Read More…)

By on March 18, 2019

Donald Trump apparently belongs to the 71 percent of Americans who remain averse to the thought of riding in self-driving cars. It’s a position that appears to be incongruous with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s deregulation strategy. But there’s always a little room for someone’s personal preference to exist in tandem with public policy. At least, there used to be.

Considering the president’s involvement in American industrial matters routinely make him the central focus of auto-related topics, we’ll keep this one relatively brief. But the accompanying details of this story are too interesting to simply ignore.  (Read More…)

By on March 18, 2019

President Donald Trump weighed in on General Motors again this week. This time, the issue at hand was the fate of Lordstown Assembly — which was shuttered earlier this month as part of the automaker’s ongoing restructuring program.

“Just spoke to Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors about the Lordstown Ohio plant,” Trump tweeted on Sunday. “I am not happy that it is closed when everything else in our Country is BOOMING. I asked her to sell it or do something quickly. She blamed the UAW Union — I don’t care, I just want it open!”

Barra’s take on just how much the United Automobile Workers are to blame is questionable, but the president’s position is not.  (Read More…)

By on March 17, 2019

While the Trump administration is carefully considering whether or not imported vehicles qualify as a threat to national security, and prepares for trade negotiations with Japan, Toyota is being very careful about how it comes across in America. Last week, the automaker announced plans to add about 600 jobs across the Southern United States — raising its proposed American expansion by another $749 million. In total, the company is expected to expend $13 billion inside the U.S. by 2022.

“In a time when others are scaling back, we believe in the strength of America and we’re excited about the future of mobility in America,” Jim Lentz, CEO of Toyota Motor North America, said of the decision.

Throwing some casual shade at other automakers who are cutting down their domestic workforce is a sound PR strategy but, according to Toyota, its increased investment has nothing to do with global or industrial politics.  (Read More…)

By on March 6, 2019

The Trump administration has long been at odds with California and a coalition of supportive states that hope to block the rollback of Obama-era fueling regulations the current Environmental Protection Agency deems “unsustainable.” The EPA also says it’s inconsistent with consumer behavior. But automakers have behaved somewhat erratically on the matter, forcing the president to request (by proxy) that they make up their minds and pick a side before a final decision is made.

While industry leaders previously backed the more stringent regulatory framework set in place by the former president, they quickly converged on Washington after Trump assumed office in 2017, requesting a softening of Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards. After blowback from California and environmental activists, automakers took a more measured approach, publicly stating that they support green initiatives and reducing their own carbon footprint — and suggesting that a national deal be reached that pleases all parties.

Fence-sitting time might be over.
(Read More…)

By on February 20, 2019

Earlier this week, the European Union warned that if the United States imposes any new tariffs on European-built vehicles, it can expect similar levies on American products. However, armed with the Commerce Department’s confidential report on automotive imports, President Donald Trump doesn’t appear remotely interested in backing down.

While Trump previously agreed not to impose additional duties on European cars, the arrangement hinged upon the two coming together on trade. Unfortunately, while both sides seem eager to work out a deal, they can’t quite manage to keep the constant threats down to a dull roar.  (Read More…)

By on January 31, 2019

us-capitol, public domain

With the United States’ government shutdown now over, lawmakers have an opportunity to work together as promised. Interestingly, one of the first pieces of bipartisan legislation to emerge after the federal bureaucracy resumed operations involves a plan to severely limit presidential authority to impose tariffs for national security reasons.

The Bicameral Congressional Trade Authority Act, introduced by Senators Patrick Toomey (R-PA) and Mark Warner (D-VA), along with House Representatives Mike Gallagher (R-WI) and Ron Kind (D-WI), would require the president to get approval from Congress before taking any trade actions based on national security threats. If passed into law, the bill would let the Legislative Branch effectively block the tariffs being proposed by the Trump administration on automobiles and automotive parts.  (Read More…)

By on January 10, 2019

President Donald Trump nominated Andrew Wheeler as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday, setting him up to permanently fill a position he’s already occupied since July.

Trump praised Wheeler in November his “fantastic job” as acting administrator of the EPA following the July 2018 resignation of the agency’s former scandal-ridden head, Scott Pruitt. This month, the president submitted Wheeler’s formal nomination to the Senate. There’s still a ways to go before the ex-lobbyist’s confirmation, though, as the Senate will no doubt be critical of his relatively recent ties to the coal industry. (Read More…)

By on December 14, 2018

China announced Friday its intent to reduce tariffs on imports of American-made cars as it tries to negotiate a trade deal with the United States. As you’ll recall, the People’s Republic imposed additional punitive tariffs on U.S. cars and auto parts earlier this year after promising it would lower the trade barriers on a global scale.

Things look to be different this time around. China has already taken steps to scale back the trade war and appears ready to continue down that path. Earlier this month, President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to a truce in the trade war at their meeting in Argentina. This was followed by an announcement, via Trump’s Twitter account, claiming China had agreed to scale back auto tariffs against the United States(Read More…)

By on December 4, 2018

2018 Chevrolet Bolt - Image: Chevrolet

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow announced Monday that the Trump administration is seeking an end to federal subsidies on electric cars. Interestingly, the move appears to be related to General Motors’ plant closings and layoffs. The company’s restructuring plan hasn’t gone over well with policy makers or the American public, with many accusing the automaker of abusing years of tax breaks, only to reduce its workforce as a way of pursuing new technologies, businesses, and further bolstering its profit margins.

However, cutting GM out of the electric vehicle subsidies deal is more likely to impact its rivals than anything else. The company said it’s on the cusp of the EV tax credit ceiling already, with the gradual phase-out of those incentives likely to take place through 2019. Yet Kudlow pointed to the elimination of the credits as one way of punishing GM for eliminating so many jobs, echoing President Donald Trump’s threats from last last week.

“As a matter of our policy, we want to end all of those subsidies,” Kudlow explained. “And by the way, other subsidies that were imposed during the Obama administration, we are ending, whether it’s for renewables and so forth.”  (Read More…)

By on December 3, 2018

Trump

Last night President Donald Trump tweeted that China had agreed to reduce tariffs. While The People’s Republic already lowered tariffs over the summer, it chose to cut the United States out of that deal as trade relations worsened. In fact, America found itself subject to an increased, 40-percent fine on imported autos while the rest of the world saw their tariffs (partially) eased. But the president seems optimistic.

“My meeting in Argentina with President Xi of China was an extraordinary one,” Trump explained in a follow-up post. “Relations with China have taken a BIG leap forward! Very good things will happen. We are dealing from great strength, but China likewise has much to gain if and when a deal is completed. Level the field!”

Meanwhile, China remains silent on the matter.  (Read More…)

By on November 27, 2018

General Motors Renaissance Center

The big news this week is General Motors’ decision to cull its lineup, closing plants and sacking about 15 percent of its North American workforce in the process. According to Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra, GM’s official reasons for doing so are all part of its grand plan to transition to a company focused on electric vehicles and self-driving cars.

While we harbor a vague suspicion that the automaker is actually trying to prepare itself for an incoming economic downturn, leaving itself with plenty of financial wiggle room, GM currently enjoys relatively healthy profits (thank you, truck sales) and a lofty share price. In fact, GM shares rose nearly 5 percent after it announced the shuttering of several plants in the U.S. and Canada, cutting as many as 14,800 jobs.

Unfortunately, GM’s investors seem to be the only group that’s pleased with the decision. Everyone else appears to be absolutely furious.  (Read More…)

By on November 16, 2018

It’s been a trade-heavy week. Earlier, the White House decided to postpone any major tariff decisions following a discussion with the Commerce Department over a draft report on the impact of auto imports, giving trade representatives from the United States and European Union room to talk.

Unfortunately, things don’t appear to have gone swimmingly. European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström left her Wednesday meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer promising that the EU would have retaliatory tariffs at the ready if America pulls the trigger on auto import duties. However, she also said some progress was made during her talk with Lighthizer, but had nothing conclusive to announce

Negotiating with the EU has grown difficult and, frankly, the automotive aspects have become less important of late. The European Union is now discussing the possibility of creating its own army, leaving president Trump to tweet angrily about historical precedents.  (Read More…)

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