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Trump asks Japanese automakers to do something they've been doing for 35 years

Greg Gardner, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Automotive News

President Donald Trump asked Monday that Japanese automakers consider making vehicles in the U.S., apparently unaware they've been doing that for decades.

"Try building your cars in the United States instead of shipping them over. That's not too much to ask," Trump said during an appearance before Japanese business executives. "Is it rude to ask?"

It's not so much rude as oblivious to the fact that foreign production has transformed the nation's auto industry over the past three decades.

Trump's comments ignited a social media storm of ridicule, as well as a flurry of helpful facts.

"Honda, Subaru, Nissan, Mazda and Toyota built 2.4 million vehicles, accounted for one-third of all U.S. auto production in 2016," Kristin Dziczek, director of the Center for Automotive Research's industrial, labor and economics group, posted on Twitter.

When you add Hyundai, Kia, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen, 48 percent of all vehicles assembled in the U.S. last year were produced by companies other than Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler, according to the International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers.


Toyota's largest assembly operation with about 8,000 employees is in Georgetown, Ky.

The first U.S-made Honda Accord rolled off the Marysville, Ohio, assembly line in 1982.

"Foreign automakers -- Japanese, German, Korean--all have a strategy to build where they sell, and the United States is a huge market," Dziczek said. "Local production protects against currency swings and creates jobs in the United States."

The Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association estimates that its members built nearly 4 million vehicles in the U.S. last year. Exports from Japan to the U.S. have fallen from 3.5 million cars a year in 1986 to just over 1.5 million in 2016.


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