Japan’s Not Happy With Trump Investigating Auto Imports Over ‘National Security’


Decades ago in the history of Toyota, tariffs, and U.S. auto production. This is NUMMI in 1985. Teslas come from here now.
Photo: AP

Good morning! Welcome to The Morning Shift, your roundup of the auto news you so deeply crave, the taste of which has never left your memory, all in one place every weekday morning. Here are the important stories for which you hunger.

1st Gear: Toyoda Among Those ‘Gravely Concerned’ With Trump

It should come as absolutely no surprise that the Trump administration’s trade war bullshit hovering over the auto industry pivoted the the classic crutch of modern America: national security.

Trump actually opened a national security investigation on auto imports back in May, bringing the inanity of threat level orange to the car business.

At the time, it drew public comment from President Shinzo Abe. It was Abe who pointed out that these “foreign” cars are more American than Trump might like to admit, per our previous reporting on the matter:

“Japanese automakers have created jobs and made huge contributions to the U.S. economy,” Abe told the Diet, when asked by a lawmaker how Japan would respond to the U.S. move.

In any case, Trump unsurprisingly has not changed course on this bad idea, and the weighty Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association has now, uh, weighed in, as The Japan Times reports:

Japan’s auto industry body said Friday it is “gravely concerned” about U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent launch of a national security investigation into imports of automobiles, a move carmakers fear could result in new tariffs.

“It is consumers themselves who would be penalized, through increased vehicle prices and reduced model options, in the event that trade-restrictive measures were to be implemented” as a result of the investigation, said Akio Toyoda, chairman of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association.

The report goes on to note that if tariffs come down, “Japanese manufacturers’ shift of production to the United States could accelerate and hollow out the domestic industry,” according to observers.

Ah good. It’s always good to “hollow out” an industry.

Oh, wait, that’s bad? I’m hearing reports that that’s bad. Cool.

2nd Gear: The Double-Breasted God Reportedly Summoned To Court

There was a time in the auto industry when the sneer of Martin Winterkorn struck fear into the heart of anyone who even observed him. Volkswagen was steamrolling its opposition, having survived a hostile takeover from Porsche, building up industry-leading modular architecture, and heading for the number one spot in worldwide production. Winterkorn, in his stiff double-breasted suits, stood at the top of it all.

But that was before Dieselgate.

Now ex-CEO Winterkorn is getting called in to court, as Bild reports from Germany, saying that it got letters summoning a rather lengthy list bosses, engineers and government officials to court, the first time for them in a public hearing.

Among those to be questioned include the aforementioned Winterkorn, former Audi super-engineer Ulrich Hackenberg, Bosch CEO Volkmar Denner, currently-jailed top engineer at VW Wolfgang Hatz, and Federal Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer.

The hearings start in the fall.

3rd Gear: Don’t Worry, Diesel, GM’s Got Your Back

Follow the news and it sure seems like diesel is on its way out. A U.S. non-profit recently decreed that absolutely no new diesels meet EU standards in real world driving, as the Financial Times reported a few days back.

In these trying times, who will stand up for diesel?

General Motors, as Automotive News Europe reports. Ah yes, GM. That bastion of sound and safe engineering.

Per ANE:

“Internal combustion engines, including the diesel, can still play a role in the years to come,” [General Motors powertrain executive Pierpaolo] Antonioli, who bears global responsibility inside GM for development of diesel engines, said Wednesday at the Automotive News Europe Congress here during a panel discussion titled “What is the Future of Diesels?”

“Bosch said just a few weeks ago that they can already achieve very low emissions, especially for NOx, without increasing the cost of the combustion system,” Antonioli said.

If diesel was a person, and I was diesel, I would be worried right now.

4th Gear: Meanwhile, GM Ramps Up EV Plans… In China

Expect 20 new electrified models from GM in the coming years, up from 10 that it had previously announced, per a new report from Automotive News China. Wait, China? Not… everywhere?

Huh, I wonder why that is. Oh wait, I know exactly why, as the report details:

The acceleration of electric car launches by the Detroit automaker comes as stringent new energy vehicle production quotas are to take effect in China next year.

Those quotas, to be made more stringent over time, have prompted a flurry of electric car deals and new launches of battery-electric and plug-in hybrid models as automakers in China race to ensure they do not fall short.

Now would be a really great time for the United States to hop on that bandwagon. Instead we’re fighting with ourselves to even keep things as they are. Wonderful.

5th Gear: Automotive Electronics Supplier Ex-CEO’s Golden Parachute Limited By Hookers, Porn

The auto business is an absolutely colossal industry, with incomprehensible amount of money and power coursing around the world. Let us now take a tiny glimpse into just a tiny sliver of who runs things and how, from this report by the Detroit Free Press on the recently former boss of automotive electronics supplier Visteon:

Former Visteon Corp. President and CEO Timothy Leuliette recently walked away from a court battle with a $16.7 million golden parachute and a battered reputation after an arbitrator revealed he solicited prostitutes and downloaded pornography on company devices.

Federal court records obtained by The Detroit News detail a legal tug-of-war over porn images found on Leuliette’s devices that Visteon wanted released to the public during a civil fight that sheds light on a bitter split between the global automotive supplier and a veteran industry executive.

Apparently the package was going to be more than three times that big.

And remember, this is just the stuff we hear about. How much more wild shit is going on in private offices we can only imagine.

Reverse: What About The Berlin-Rome Car?

Neutral: What Does The American Auto Landscape Look Like In Five Years?

Do tariffs come down and we get a new era of sloppy Westmoreland-style crossovers? Do gas prices skyrocket and the Big Three get their all-in-on-SUVs plans punted into outer space? It feels like we’re on the precipice of something big, I just wonder exactly what.



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