Donald Trump urges US automakers to make big push for new plants

US President Donald Trump speaks alongside General Motors CEO Mary Barra (left) and Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne (2nd right) during a meeting with automobile industry leaders in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on Jan 2
US President Donald Trump speaks alongside General Motors CEO Mary Barra (left) and Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne (2nd right) during a meeting with automobile industry leaders in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on Jan 24, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - US President Donald Trump pushed the chief executives of General Motors Co, Ford Motor Co and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV on Tuesday (Jan 24) to increase production in the United States and boost American employment.

Trump opened a meeting with GM CEO Mary Barra, Ford CEO Mark Fields and Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne at the White House, saying he wants to see new auto plants built in the United States.

"We have a very big push on to have auto plants and other plants - many other plants," he told reporters. "It's happening."

The new Republican president, who took office Friday (Jan 20), vowed to cut regulations and taxes to make it more attractive for businesses to operate in the United States. He vowed frequently during the campaign to be a job-creating president.

GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler have all announced recent new jobs and investments in the United States, but are still investing in Mexico.

 

GM in 2014 said it would invest US$5 billion (S$7 billion) in Mexico through 2018, a move that would allow it to double its production capacity - and Barra has said the automaker is not reconsidering the plan.

Last week, Ford scrapped plans to build a US$1.6 billion plant in Mexico and instead invest US$700 million in a factory in Michigan. Ford will still move production of Focus small cars to Mexico from Michigan, but will cut total production of the cars by consolidating their assembly in an existing Mexican plant.

US automakers have been reluctant to open new US auto plants in recent years, but they have expanded operations at existing US plants.

Tuesday's meeting included the former Republican governor of Missouri, Matt Blunt, who heads a US automaker trade association.

Trump has criticised automakers for building cars in Mexico and elsewhere and has threatened to impose 35 per cent tariffs on imported vehicles.

TRUMP PRESSURE

The meeting is the latest sign of Trump's uncommon degree of intervention for a US president into corporate affairs as he has repeatedly pressured automakers and other manufacturers to"buy American and hire American."

Tuesday's gathering was the first time the CEOs of the big three automakers have met jointly with a US president since a 2011 session with Barack Obama to tout a deal to nearly double fuel efficiency standards by 2025.

Fiat Chrysler is the Italian-American parent of the former Michigan-based Chrysler.

US and foreign automakers have been touting plans to boost American jobs and investments in the face of Trump's comments. Trump, a New York businessman, often singled out Ford's Mexico investments for criticism during his election campaign.

While automakers are adding US jobs they are also cutting US small car production. On Monday, GM ended two shifts of production of small cars in Ohio and Michigan, cutting about 2,000 jobs.