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Mo­tor­ing’s most out­spo­ken and opin­ion­ated colum­nist sounds off Trump seems torn by non-amer­i­can firms pro­duc­ing non­amer­i­can cars on his patch in larger than ex­pected vol­umes

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Mike Ruther­ford on the de­cline of the US car in­dus­try

THE trou­ble with Don­ald Trump is that he wants it both ways. Be­cause he’s des­per­ately try­ing to pro­tect US jobs, he has a prob­lem with cars built any­where other than the USA. Fair enough.

Yet when Asian and Euro­pean firms build new fac­to­ries on his soil, then go on to prove the cars they build are gen­er­ally bet­ter and more de­sir­able than those from GM, Ford and Chrysler (the US Big Three), he has a very dif­fer­ent kind of prob­lem.

Those pesky Asians/euro­peans/other aliens in the Amer­i­can south are only sup­posed to be the sup­port act to the ‘true Amer­i­can’ man­u­fac­tur­ers based in Detroit, not the head­lin­ers. In 1971, for­eign auto mak­ers built just one per cent of the ve­hi­cles that came off pro­duc­tion lines in Amer­ica.

Last year that fig­ure stood at 47 per cent, and is likely to rise in the fu­ture. Trump can’t get his head around the prospect of his US Big Three build­ing the mi­nor­ity of cars in his USA. And the rev­e­la­tion last week that yet another Chrysler fac­tory in Detroit is clos­ing of­fers fur­ther proof that Trump’s do­mes­tic auto firms are in­creas­ingly weak.

Bri­tain un­con­di­tion­ally em­braces for­eign mak­ers who build fac­to­ries, cre­ate em­ploy­ment and build cars on our soil. But Trump seems torn by non-amer­i­can firms pro­duc­ing ‘non-amer­i­can’ cars on his patch in larger than ex­pected vol­umes. In turn, Euro­pean and Asian mak­ers in Amer­ica are fed-up with the lack of love from Trump and unim­pressed they don’t have a seat at the Trump ta­ble in Wash­ing­ton.

Also, th­ese na­tions are re­mind­ing the Pres­i­dent that they’ve in­vested bil­lions in the US, cre­at­ing ve­hi­cle and en­gine plants, re­search cen­tres, deal­er­ships and de­cent, well-paid jobs. And the enor­mous tax rev­enues they and their em­ploy­ees gen­er­ate help prop up Trump’s Trea­sury.

Mean­while, the USA’S Detroit-cen­tric auto unions are warn­ing Amer­i­can mo­torists to buy only Amer­i­can-made prod­ucts built at unionised plants. But since the vast ma­jor­ity of Asian or Euro­pean car fac­to­ries in the States, in ad­di­tion to Tesla’s pro­duc­tion lines, are union­free and far from the crum­bling Mo­tor City, th­ese trades unions are ef­fec­tively echo­ing Trump by urg­ing Amer­i­cans to buy Chrysler, Ford and GM prod­ucts. US con­sumers are re­spond­ing by en­sur­ing that Amer­ica’s top five sell­ing cars are built by for­eign firms in (non-union) US fac­to­ries. They dominate the Top 20. The Amer­i­can Big Three do not.

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