But many outside the administration have criticized the linkage of cars with national security, saying that view of national security is overly broad, and pointing out that the bulk of American auto imports come from the country’s closest allies. Mexico, Japan, Canada, Germany and South Korea were together responsible for more than 85 percent of American automotive imports in 2018.
“The idea that U.S. automakers are threatened by automotive imports is fundamentally flawed and ill conceived,” said John Bozzella, the president of Global Automakers, which represents foreign car brands. “No automaker or auto parts supplier asked for this ‘protection.’”
Economists and industry analysts have argued that the tariffs would raise the cost of American cars and weigh on the United States economy. The Center for Automotive Research, a research group partly funded by the industry, estimated the measures could increase the price of a new vehicle by $455 to $6,875, depending on the specific policy taken.
At a hearing last July on the tariffs, every witness present, including representatives of foreign governments, car companies, parts makers and dealerships, testified in opposition to the measure. The only exception was the United Automobile Workers union.
Jennifer Kelly, the union’s research director, said that the tariffs could address real problems with American automotive factories moving offshore, but that “rash actions” might also have “unforeseen consequences, including mass layoffs of American workers.”
Daniel Price, a former economic official in the George W. Bush administration, said the White House proclamation Friday made a “stunning assertion” that automotive manufacturing and research and development only contributes to the economy and national security if it is performed by a company that is American-owned.
Foreign automotive companies, including BMW and Mercedes, have invested tens of billions of dollars in states including Ohio, Indiana, South Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi, he said, but “the proclamation thus sends a message to foreign automakers that their investment is not welcomed or valued.”