Toyota Rebukes Trump Over Car Tariff Threat

May 20, 2019 at 1:24 AM

President Donald Trump’s continuing threats to slap 25% tariffs on foreign-made cars prompted a strongly worded rebuke from Toyota Motor Corp. last weekend.

Last week Trump said he would postpone a decision on the taxes for 180 days. But he also reiterated his complaint that such vehicles pose a threat to U.S. security. Toyota’s response: Such talk sends a message that “our investments [in the U.S.] are not welcomed.”

Toyota says it has spent $60 billion to develop 10 manufacturing plants in the U.S. over the past several decades. But the company drew Trump’s ire three years ago for announcing plans to build Corolla small cars in Guanajuato, Mexico, rather than somewhere in the U.S.

The carmaker announced a new initiative to spend $10 billion over five years to upgrade and expand its U.S. facilities. Months later it also decided against making Corollas in Mexico. Instead, it said it will produce the cars in a new, $1.6 billion plant to be shared with Mazda Motors Corp. The plant in Huntsville, Ala., is scheduled to open in 2021 with the capacity to make 300,000 vehicles annually.

In the same year, Toyota unveiled plans to invest $10 billion over five years in its American plants. Two months ago, it added $3 billion to the strategy, Bloomberg News notes.

But none of those efforts has had an impact on Trump’s repeated saber rattling over protective tariffs, Bloomberg says. Trump uses the possibility of imposing such taxes as a tool to push major trade partners into reducing their surpluses with the U.S.

Toyota flatly rejects the notion that its activities are a threat to U.S. national security. Other foreign carmakers and trade groups have asserted the same.