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Trump Meets With Automakers; Demands More U.S.-Built Cars

After months of aggressive social media negotiations, President Trump has met face-to-face with the Big Three of auto manufacturing to talk about slashing regulations.

Authors: Justin Sink and Jamie Butters

President Donald Trump met Tuesday with the chief executives of the big three U.S. automakers as he looks to persuade car manufacturers to keep production within the country.

“I want new plants to be built here for cars sold here!” Trump said in a posting on Twitter before the meeting in Washington on Tuesday.

The heads of Ford Motor Co., Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and General Motors Co. attended the meeting at the White House. The meeting presents Detroit’s automakers with a key opportunity to weigh in on major issues the administration plans to tackle in its earliest days, including trade, regulatory and tax reforms.

“He looks forward to hearing their ideas, on how we can work together to bring more jobs back to this industry in particular,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said.

Ford CEO Mark Fields planned to discuss corporate tax reform, the need for “data-driven regulations” and trade policy initiatives that address foreign currency manipulation, Ford spokeswoman Christin Baker said. GM CEO Mary Barra and Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne also planned to attend, according to spokeswomen for the two companies prior to the gathering.

Trump met Monday with prominent American manufacturers including Elon Musk, the head of Tesla Motors Inc., and said he would dramatically cut regulations and corporate taxes. But Trump said manufacturers would face tough penalties if they move production outside the country. Fields also attended that meeting.

Cutting Regulations

“We think we can cut regulations by 75 percent. Maybe more,” Trump said. “When you want to expand your plant, or when Mark wants to come in and build a big massive plant, or when Dell wants to come in and do something monstrous and special -- you’re going to have your approvals really fast.”

After the meeting, Fields said he was confident Trump was “very serious on making sure the United States economy is going to be strong and have policies -- on tax, regulatory or trade -- to drive that.”

Trump has openly agitated for U.S. automakers to keep jobs in the U.S. and cancel plans to build plants abroad.

“Car companies and others, if they want to do business in our country, have to start making things here again. WIN!” Trump tweeted on Sunday.

Domestic Investments

All three automakers have given Trump fodder for promoting his efforts to boost U.S. hiring. Ford canceled a $1.6 billion car assembly plant in Mexico and has said it will spend $700 million to expand a Michigan factory instead. GM and Fiat Chrysler have each pledged $1 billion in investment toward domestic assembly, though both companies have said their plans were made prior to Trump winning the election.

All three also continue to produce vehicles in Mexico. Ford will assemble Focus compacts at an existing factory in Hermosillo already building Fusion and Lincoln MKZ sedans.

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Ford CEO is one of several automaker CEOs who met with President Trump on Jan. 24 to discuss how to strengthen car manufacturing in the U.S.
Photo: Ford

GM hasn’t announced any step back from plans announced in late 2014 that it would spend $5 billion on new plants in the country by 2018, creating 5,600 jobs. Fiat Chrysler has seven facilities south of the border building parts as well as Ram trucks and vans, Fiat 500 small cars and Dodge Journey sport utility vehicles.

In November, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers sent an eight-page letter to the Trump transition team with a series of recommendations, including aligning programs run by the EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Inconsistent rules threaten to saddle the industry with “potentially billions of dollars in fines,” said the trade group, which represents most of the world’s biggest automakers including GM, Ford, Toyota and Volkswagen AG.

The alliance asked for a presidential panel to review all auto regulations, including fuel-economy rules, as consumers continue to reject efficient cars and electrified vehicles in favor of pickups and SUVs.

“The combination of low gas prices and the existing fuel efficiency gains from the early years of the program is undercutting consumer willingness to buy the vehicles with more expensive alternative powertrains,” the group said.

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