Industry executives have been biting their lip ever since President Donald Trump took office, with his tweeted vows to throw out the North American Free Trade Agreement, challenge vehicle importers and roll back the drive to higher fuel economy standards. In 2018, he lived up to his promises — even as many around the industry trembled in anxiety. POTUS pain point No. 1 was the imposition of tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. Trump championed U.S. production, much to the delight of domestic producers, but not so much to automakers and suppliers who rely on complex supply lines of metal objects passing back and forth across American borders. Tariffs added higher costs to products ranging from raw aluminum ingots to finished production tools coming out of Ontario mom and pop shops.
POTUS pain point No. 2 came as Trump turned the whip onto China as a manufacturing base, slapping tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods, including car parts, and threatening tariffs on $267 billion more.
POTUS pain point No. 3 came in the form of public tongue lashings against automakers. After branding Germany's auto exporters as a threat to U.S. security, Trump took General Motors CEO Mary Barra to task for GM's decision to close plants in the Midwest — tacking on the threat of a punitive action against GM. Citing the automaker's 2009 federal bailout, Trump tweeted, "The U.S. saved General Motors, and this is the THANKS we get! We are now looking at cutting all @GM subsidies, including … for electric cars."