President Donald Trump has drawn swift and widespread condemnation for his potential crackdown on U.S. light-vehicle imports. The Commerce Department has started investigating whether the flow of light vehicles into America is weakening its economy and may impair national security, following a White House directive. Any tariffs would put companies including Mazda Motor Corp. that rely entirely on imports in a major bind. Even Detroit’s General Motors and Ford Motor Co. ship vehicles into their home market from overseas. And American allies Mexico, Canada, Japan and Germany are the leading sources of imported cars and trucks.
Here's how trade policy experts, auto industry representatives and government leaders are reacting:
“The U.S. auto industry is thriving and growing. To our knowledge, no one is asking for this protection. This path leads inevitably to fewer choices and higher prices for cars and trucks in America.”
-- John Bozzella, CEO of the Association of Global Automakers, a Washington trade group that represents car manufacturers including Toyota and Hyundai Motor
"I am - even more than I was with steel and aluminum - trying to figure out where a possible national security connection is. Taking that a step further into autos seems to me to be on even flimsier logical grounds. But we know that this is very much linked to ongoing negotiations around moving forward on NAFTA."
-- Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in a Thursday interview with Reuters.
“It can’t be repeated enough: Tariffs are taxes. American families who can least afford a 25 percent price increase on vehicles will bear the burden of this tariff. To treat auto imports like a national security threat would be a self-inflicted economic disaster for American consumers, dealers and dealership employees.”
-- Cody Lusk, CEO of the American International Automobile Dealers Association, a group representing 9,600 auto retail franchises
“We have to consider this as something of a provocation. I have the growing impression that the U.S. no longer believes in the competition of ideas, but only the law of power. It fills me with grave concern.”
-- Eric Schweitzer, president of the Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry
“Imposing broad, comprehensive restrictions on such a large industry could cause confusion in world markets and could lead to the breakdown of the multilateral trade system based on WTO rules.”
-- Hiroshige Seko, Japan's trade minister
"If this proposal is carried out, it would deal a staggering blow to the very industry it purports to protect and would threaten to ignite a global trade war."
-- Thomas Donohue, CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce
“There are no merits whatsoever to the argument that imported autos somehow threaten U.S. national security. The mere assertion is unworthy of consideration, much less a full-blown investigation under the guise of law. President Trump is misappropriating the law in ways not dissimilar to the methods used by Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro to destroy Venezuela, and Congress needs to start treating this regime as the profound threat to the republic that it clearly is.”
-- Dan Ikenson, director of the Center for Trade Policy Studies at the Cato Institute, a U.S. think tank that supports limited government
“It pushes the envelope on the use of national security. Courts normally defer to the president on that, but this is a case where there is no auto shortage, the companies are not currently in trouble and there are plenty of alternative sources from friendly allies. I could see a court saying this doesn’t pass the laugh test if there were a lawsuit -- and there no doubt will be if any actual action is ever taken.”
-- Bill Reinsch, chairman of international business at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and undersecretary of commerce for export administration in the Clinton administration
"There's no way that Capitol Hill is going to support raising taxes on voters in every single district in the country."
-- Robert Holleyman, former Obama deputy trade representative who heads the international trade practice at Crowell & Moring
"This appears to be either an attempt to affect domestic politics ahead of the election or for some other transactional purpose regarding ongoing trade discussions. This is a dangerous course and should be abandoned immediately."
-- Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn.
"For most Americans, cars are the second largest purchase they make, after their homes. Taxing cars, trucks and auto parts coming into the country would directly hit American families."
-- Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah
"German carmakers would likely immediately lose money on every vehicle shipped from Europe to the U.S. under a 25 percent tariff scenario."
-- Evercore analyst Arndt Ellinghorst
"If the tariffs actually went into effect, it would upend the supplier industry. We are very dependent on the ability to bring in parts from other parts of the world for final production in the U.S., and if that's no longer financially viable, the question becomes, is the production of vehicles in this country going to be financially viable?"
-- Ann Wilson, senior vice president for government affairs at the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association, to The New York Times
Tariffs would "punish American companies, suppliers and customers. This is not smart."
-- Flavio Volpe, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers' Association in Toronto
"It's absurd to think that Canada in any way could pose a national security threat to the United States."
-- Chrystia Freeland, Canada's minister of foreign affairs
"We are confident that vehicle imports do not pose a national security risk to the U.S. We urge the Administration to support policies that remove barriers to free trade, and we will continue to work with them and provide input to achieve that goal."
-- The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a trade group of automakers operating in the U.S.
"You pass a permanent tax reform for corporations and say, 'Let's do business in America.' And then every day, you don't know which of your goods will have a tariff wall around it. It makes no sense."
-- Douglas Holtz-Eakin, president of the American Action Forum, a conservative-leaning think tank, and former director of the Congressional Budget Office
Reuters contributed to this report.