General Motors is one of the latest to weigh in on the threat of new tariffs targeting foreign autos and automotive parts, warning that GM could be forced to scale back production and cut U.S. jobs.
GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra, who briefly served on President Donald Trump’s economic advisory council before it was disbanded last year, is the latest to come out against tariffs that could run as high as 25 percent. Harley-Davidson has already announced plans to move some production abroad, while BMW has said it would likely cut back operations at its Spartanburg, South Carolina plant that is currently the largest exporter of American-made automobiles.
“Increased import tariffs could lead to a smaller GM, a reduced presence at home and abroad for this iconic American company, and risk less — not more — U.S. jobs,” GM said in a statement submitted to the Commerce Department which has been ordered to consider whether auto imports are a threat to national security and, if so, whether tariffs need to be implemented.
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That threat has triggered a sharp backlash from across the auto industry — something all the more significant because critics even include domestic automakers, like GM, that have, in the past, raised concerns about unfair trade practices.
Last week, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, or AAM, issued an analysis estimating the price of a typical new vehicle sold in the U.S. would rise by about $5,800. Foreign-made luxury vehicles, such as a Mercedes-Benz S-Class or Lexus LS, could cost tens of thousands of dollars more. But industry officials warn even American-made models will be impacted because they typically use some imported parts and components. Toyota expects it would have to raise the price of its American-made Camry sedan, one of the U.S. market’s most popular vehicles, by about $1,800 if the 25 percent tariffs were put in place.
LMC Automotive last month estimated a 25 percent tariff would reduce U.S. auto sales by 1 million annually. That’s without factoring in the downturn in the American car market that began last year, the first slide in sales since the end of the Great Recession.
The Association of Global Automakers last week predicted that “hundreds of thousands of American jobs” are at risk, while the Japanese government estimated that a minimum 200,000 U.S. workers linked to “transplant” factories, dealerships and other facilities operated by Japanese auto brands could lose their jobs. And the Japanese report said that number could climb as high as 624,000 if it and other trade partners choose to retaliate — an increasing likelihood. The larger figure comes from a separate study conducted by the Peterson Institute for International Economics.