Trump tariffs would cause vehicle prices to soar, wipe out jobs

Canada produces about two million cars a year most shipped to the U.S

The Commerce Department is holding the hearing as it considers whether imports of passenger vehicles imperil US national security.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross attends a cabinet meeting at the White House in Washington, U.S., July 18, 2018.

Hundreds of workers employed by foreign automakers rallied on Capitol Hill, urging the administration to drop the plans they said could threaten their jobs.

An automotive study says USA tariffs on imported vehicles and auto parts would cause the price of new vehicles to soar, wipe out tens of thousands of American jobs and take a big chunk out of the country's gross domestic product.

Administration officials and congressional aides say the tariff probe is in part created to win concessions during ongoing NAFTA renegotiation talks, but note that Trump has told aides he wants to impose tariffs before the congressional elections in November.

As part of the administration's Section 232 investigation into foreign supplies, the department held a hearing to listen to arguments both for and against restrictions.

Over all, the American automobile industry employs 50 percent more people than it did in 2011, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and domestic production has doubled in the last decade.

One of the dealerships that Jeff Crippen owns in Lansing, Michigan, sells only Mazdas, all of which are manufactured in other countries and shipped to the USA, mainly from Japan.

President Donald Trump's proposed tariffs on vehicle, truck and auto parts imports are getting little public support. Almost one in four vehicles sold were produced by worldwide firms with factories in the U.S.

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A quota that limits the number of vehicle and parts imports to 80 per cent of 2017 levels would also be costly, pushing up the price by US$6,610 if all countries are included or up US$5,583 in Canada and Mexico are excluded.

Imposing a 25 percent tariff on auto imports would raise the price of the typical new vehicle sold in the United States (now about $35,000) by $4,400 - $2,270 for US -built cars and $6,875 for imported cars and trucks, according to a study released Thursday by the Center for Automotive Research. Representatives of automakers, dealerships, and specialty equipment manufacturers repeatedly told the department that tariffs will increase costs for raw materials, which will hike prices for consumers, which will reduce auto sales, which will cost manufacturing jobs. It's the same process Trump used to craft the tariffs on steel and aluminum imports he announced in early March.

The study found USA auto production can't quickly increase, taking at least a year to convert an under-utilized plant and on average two years to build a new assembly facility. Of the 48 per cent that were imported, with more than half assembled in Canada or Mexico containing significant US content.

Kristin Dziczek, an economist at the Center for Automotive Research, said the tariffs will boost maintenance costs, since many parts regularly used for vehicles largely made overseas like air filters and water pumps.

The one witness expected to testify in favor of the tariffs, United Automobile Workers research director Jennifer Kelly, is also prepared to warn against sweeping tariffs.

"We caution that any rash actions could have unforeseen consequences, including mass lay-offs for American workers", the UAW wrote.

"U.S. automotive and automotive parts manufacturers would not benefit from tariff or quota protection since all vehicles produced in the United States rely on imported content and a substantial share of US -produced automotive parts and components are exported for assembly in vehicles built in other countries", it said.

Trump has repeatedly suggested he would move quickly to impose tariffs, even before the government launched its probe. "But those costs are not going to go up as much as buying a new car" with added tariff costs.

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