POLITICS

Another Car Company Blows Kisses To Donald Trump

Automakers seem eager to please the president-elect by announcing new job creation.

General Motors said Tuesday that it would invest $1 billion in domestic manufacturing ― an announcement seemingly designed to please Donald Trump, even though the automaker said it had nothing to do with him.

“All of the decisions behind today’s announcement are good business decisions and they have been in the works for some time,” GM spokesman Omar Hussain said in an email.

Since his election, Trump has repeatedly claimed credit for any news that auto manufacturers plan to build in the U.S., which Trump has said shows he’s already making good on campaign promises to bring back American jobs. The pattern continued on Tuesday.

“With all of the jobs I am bringing back into the U.S. (even before taking office), with all of the new auto plants coming back into our country ...” Trump tweeted after GM’s announcement, “I believe the people are seeing ‘big stuff.’” 

Trump also specifically thanked GM in another tweet.  

Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, said there’s “no question that businesses realize there’s an upside to announcing new jobs and investments in America right now.”

But Paul noted this is nothing new. President Barack Obama also loved to tout “insourcing” decisions by manufacturers and sometimes hosted the companies at the White House.

“The real question for me is whether or not a Trump administration and this Congress will have the right policies to attract new jobs, raise wages for workers, and keep good jobs here,” Paul said. “That’s where our attention needs to be focused.”

It is unlikely that Trump’s surprise election victory two months ago is already having serious effects on automakers’ manufacturing strategies.

“These investments in manufacturing, these things take quite a long time,” said Jessica Caldwell, senior analyst at the auto site Edmunds. “There’s no way all of it would just change on a dime since November.”

Still, she said carmakers gathered in Detroit last week for the North American International Auto Show put unusual emphasis on the location of manufacturing as they debuted new lines of vehicles.

“I’ve been in autos since 2000, and I’ve never heard so many press conferences saying ‘this is going to be built in America’ or ‘this is going to create X number of jobs in the U.S.,’” Caldwell said, adding that such information would typically be buried in one line of a press release. “So from a presentation and communications standpoint, he’s had an effect.”

Trump did bully one company, the air-conditioner manufacturer Carrier, into keeping a factory in Indiana last year. And the Ford Motor Company said earlier this month that it had canceled plans to build a new plant in Mexico ― plans that Trump had criticized ― although the company didn’t reverse its decision to shift its small-car production to that country. Still, Ford CEO Mark Fields later noted to CNN that Trump had promised “a more positive U.S. manufacturing business environment” and said that canceling the Mexican plant signaled a “vote of confidence” in the incoming administration.

Trump bogusly claimed in November that he had stopped Ford from closing a plant in Kentucky. The company had never said it was shutting down the facility; it had simply considered moving one of the plant’s production lines.

GM said Tuesday that its billion-dollar investment would create or save 1,500 U.S. jobs ― fewer than the number of jobs the company is eliminating at three factories this year. Since 2009, the company said, it’s invested $21 billion in the U.S. 

“The U.S. is our home market and we are committed to growth that is good for our employees, dealers, and suppliers and supports our continued effort to drive shareholder value,” GM CEO Mary Barra said in a statement.

Barra is an adviser to Trump as a member of his “Strategic and Policy Forum.”

Earlier this month the president-elect bashed GM for making a version of the Chevrolet Cruze in Mexico. Trump hinted last week that he hoped GM would make an announcement similar to Ford’s.

“I hope that General Motors will be following, and I think they will be,” Trump said at a press conference. “I think a lot of people will be following.”

A company spokesman confirmed that GM will still lay off 3,000 workers this year despite Tuesday’s announcement.

Matt Streb is one of 1,200 workers GM is letting go this Friday from a plant that makes the Chevy Cruze in Lordstown, Ohio. Streb told HuffPost last week he was glad that Trump had brought attention to factory layoffs, but skeptical that his job would be saved.

“I see he’s fond of tweeting, but I believe things when I see them,” Streb said. “I hope he follows through on his campaign promises to save the American worker.”

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