GM says no change of plans despite Trump’s criticism

ACTIVE VOICE::Leaders of the US’ big three automakers expect to have the ear of the incoming US administration because of their contribution to jobs and investment

AFP, DETROIT, Michigan

Thu, Jan 12, 2017 - Page 10

Leaders of the big three US automakers have all spoken at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan, about how US president-elect Trump might impact the industry, but the third, from GM, offered the most business-as-usual message. Trump has slammed US carmakers Ford, Fiat Chrysler and GM’s Chevrolet brand for manufacturing cars in Mexico to export to the US market, threatening them with import tariffs.

He has also blasted free-trade agreements.

Ford executive chairman William Ford Jr and Fiat Chrysler chief executive Sergio Marchionne offered their views on Monday, at the start of the important auto industry showcase.

Ford said Trump has been receptive to industry concerns, while Marchionne was taking a wait-and-see approach, but planning no additional Mexico investments for the time being.

GM chief executive Mary Barra was the last to be heard on Tuesday and she held firm to her plans for the biggest of the US automakers. She refused to speculate on whether a new White House may require the company to alter course — particularly with regard to investments in Mexico.

“We think there’s many things that we can do in working with the administration that are going to make America great again, that are going to strengthen business, which will strengthen growth, which will strengthen jobs,” she said, evoking Trump’s campaign slogan.

GM’s Chevrolet Cruze was the target of Trump’s Twitter attack a week earlier, but Barra said only that she looked forward to conversing with Trump once he takes office on Friday next week.

“We’re going to have an active voice as trade policy changes or evolves, but the foundation of our strategy is to build where we sell,” she told reporters.

GM, which includes four US brands — Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac and GMC — has production plants in Mexico and even announced on Tuesday that the new version of the GMC Terrain, a sports utility vehicle currently produced in Canada, would be made in Mexico.

“These decisions were made two and three years ago” and involve “big investments,” Barra said.

Trump’s applauded the other two US automakers when they touted plans for US investments.

Barra said she, too, expected to have the administration’s ear as it takes power and begins work on its to-do list.

“When I think you look at our industry, and General Motors specifically, of how much we already contribute to jobs, we think that voice will be heard as any policy is set,” Barra said.

GM had good news on Tuesday, as it raised its earnings outlook for this year, attributed to expected solid final sales figures for last year. Its expected earnings per share was bumped up to between US$6 and US$6.5 for this year, from US$5.5 to US$6 last year.

“We had a great year in 2016 in every respect,” Barra said.

GM also said it would ramp up its global volume of crossovers, trucks and sports utility vehicles, models which accounted for approximately 60 percent of all US auto sales last year.