These tariffs immediately bring to mind some of our industry's most intense battles. First, the Chicken Tax of 1963, put into place by President Johnson in response to French and German tariffs on American chickens. More than 50 years later, the tax is still in place, effectively preventing the import of pickup trucks and limiting American drivers to just six brands of trucks from which to choose, while they have 30-plus options for cars.
And don't think the tax only hurts international brands. The Chicken Tax is why Ford, until it was forced to stop in 2013, built its Transit Connect cargo van in Turkey, imported it into the U.S. as a passenger van, and then hired contractors at the Port of Baltimore to rip out the backseats, flooring and rear windows.
The second crisis that comes to mind is the 10 percent luxury tax collected on "high line" cars (anything that cost more than $30,000) between 1990 and 2002. That tax failed to accomplish its purpose — paying for the tax cuts of the 1990s — and instead reduced auto sales by an estimated 20 percent and forced many dealers to pay the tax themselves just to stay in business.
And finally, who can forget the 100 percent tariffs that the Clinton administration threatened against Japanese luxury vehicles in 1995? At the time I was working in government relations for AIADA, and I vividly recall the alarm from our members who recognized that those tariffs would destroy their livelihoods and those of their employees. AIADA then, as it is doing now, shifted into high gear, advocating for international nameplate dealers on the Hill, in the White House, on the campaign trail, and even in Japan. We were determined to sink the plan, and fortunately, in the 11th hour, we did.
These auto trade blunders, past and current, should loom large in any discussion over Trump's new 25 percent tariff plan.
History plainly shows us that making some autos unaffordable won't strengthen America's economy or its position as a world leader. It simply punishes auto manufacturers, retailers and the communities they serve.
This isn't an idle threat from the president. It's really happening — the public hearings have been scheduled for July. Whether you build cars, sell cars or drive cars, heads up: If these tariffs are implemented, the sky is falling.