FRANKFURT — President Donald Trump's decision to delay imposing higher tariffs on Chinese goods last week did little to ease the anxiety of automaker executives who fear escalating costs from an ongoing trade war.
Amid signs that the gears in the global economy are grinding to a halt, executives said higher import duties could trigger corresponding price hikes, affect shift plans at factories and potentially force production of some vehicles to move to different markets.
Nicholas Peter, head of finance at BMW AG, said he expected headwinds next year should fresh tariffs be imposed. He warned some volume in its Spartanburg, S.C., plant could be lost.
"We moved [some production of] the X3 to China last year, where we'll soon start with the X2 as well, and we're considering localizing a further model in China," Peter told reporters at the Frankfurt auto show. "Is an X5 on the list of possible candidates? Sure."
The German premium carmaker could also be affected in exporting from its plant in Shenyang, China. BMW is currently preparing to start production of its first electric crossover, the iX3, due to launch in 2020. It will be built exclusively in China, the world's largest EV market, and shipped around the world.