President Donald Trump has been making a lot of noise criticizing Germany and German auto manufacturers for all the cars they sell in the U.S.
But the president is wrong. There may be nations that don't practice fair trade with the U.S., but Germany is not one of them. The German auto industry is well-represented here, with billions of dollars in investment in facilities that employ thousands of American workers. That doesn't even include the thousands of U.S. employees who work in dealerships representing German brands.
I remember vividly in 1991 when BMW was scouting the U.S. countryside for a factory location. The plant was built in Spartanburg, S.C., and today it is a huge complex that last year produced 411,000 BMWs for sale here and for export.
A couple of years later, Daimler-Benz began its search for a production site in the U.S. Today, the Mercedes plant in Vance, Ala., is producing close to an estimated 300,000 vehicles annually.
Audi and Porsche do not build vehicles in the U.S., but their parent company, Volkswagen, is making cars and SUVs in Chattanooga.
Meanwhile, Ford and General Motors were long ago established with factories in Germany, though GM recently sold its Opel subsidiary.
I would suggest that the president consult his secretary of commerce, Wilbur Ross, about trade with Germany and how the global auto industry works. Ross gets it. On more than one occasion, he was a speaker at the Automotive News World Congress while chairman of the automotive supplier IAC, which was formed in 2006 when Lear Corp.'s North American interiors unit and Collins & Aikman Corp.'s European business were merged under Ross' private equity firm.
Ross could enlighten President Trump in the ways of the auto world.
We'll see how the Chinese do when they begin selling cars in the U.S. — whether they will manufacture here, too. But global auto manufacturers have been doing a reasonably good job of building where they sell. The German companies included.