Months before the election, Ford had already begun pointing out economic risks, and it has cut production at six North American plants in recent weeks. General Motors last week said it would move two plants in Ohio and Michigan to two-shift operations in January, cutting about 2,000 jobs.
GM said the decision was not linked to Trump's victory but rather was a reaction to slowing sales of cars. One of the shifts was added only about six months ago to build the redesigned Chevrolet Camaro, sales of which were down 9 percent through October.
Both GM and Ford released statements saying they look forward to working with Trump to strengthen the industry, but neither addressed how his election could affect their growing manufacturing operations in Mexico. Trump was particularly vocal on the campaign trail about Ford, calling the company's plan to end small-car assembly in Michigan "a disgrace."
Cadillac President Johan de Nysschen, speaking at a conference in Portugal the day after the election, said GM had done "contingency planning" for a Trump win but moving work back into the U.S. isn't practical.
"We have significant capital investments we have made into the plants," de Nysschen said, according to the Financial Times. "It's important to note that we produce for the global stage, not only for North America. We're able to divert a lot of Mexican production to serve other global markets that require our vehicles. I think that we will be able to accommodate whatever new developments lie in store."
Regardless of anything Trump does to regulate vehicle production, stable consumer demand is the bigger concern for automakers. Szakaly, the NADA economist, said he expects spending on new vehicles to continue largely unaffected, given that unemployment is at historic lows.
"Over the medium and longer terms, Trump's stated or understood policy objectives will produce significant positive tailwinds, particularly as they direct us to lower corporate taxes, increased infrastructure spending and reduced regulation across all aspects of business," Szakaly said. "If increased infrastructure spending happens and certain tax cuts materialize, it will mean a better long-term outlook than what's in front of us at present."
But because Trump made so many exaggerations and conflicting statements on the campaign trail, the industry has to wait to find out which of his proposals he intends to pursue seriously and how much of his strong rhetoric was just for show.