Germany Tells United States: ‘Build Better Cars’

Mark Blinch/Reuters

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Ted Goodman Contributor
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German government officials responded to President-elect Donald Trump’s warning that the United States would impose a 35 percent tax on vehicles imported into the U.S. market.

The shot at U.S. automakers came after Trump criticized German automakers for failing to produce more cars on U.S. soil in an exclusive interview with the German newspaper BILD, published Monday. Trump blasted the nation’s automakers, including BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen.

“If you want to build cars in the world, then I wish you all the best. You can build cars for the United States, but for every car that comes to the USA, you will pay 35 percent tax,” Trump said in translated remarks.

Germany’s Deputy Chancellor and Minister for the Economy Sigmar Gabriel warned that a tax on German imports would lead to a “bad awakening.”

“The US car industry would have a bad awakening if all the supply parts that aren’t being built in the US were to suddenly come with a 35% tariff. I believe it would make the US car industry weaker, worse and above all more expensive,” Gabriel said in a video interview with BILD.

When asked what Trump could do to make sure German customers bought more American cars, Gabriel responded, “Build better cars.”

The President-elect rattled German officials with his comments Monday. While America regularly purchases foreign-made cars, Trump took issue with the fact that Chevrolet is not as popular in Germany as Mercedes-Benz is in the United States.

“If you go down Fifth Avenue everyone has a Mercedes Benz in front of his house, isn’t that the case?” Trump said to the German paper. “How many Chevrolet’s do you see in Germany? Not very many, maybe none at all,” he continued. “It’s a one-way street.”

BMW executive Peter Schwarzenbauer responded to Trump’s criticism by saying that the company was sticking to plans to invest $1 billion in a new plant in Mexico, which is due to start production in 2019 with 1,500 new jobs.

German car-makers quadrupled light vehicle production in the United States over the past seven years to 850,000 units, Germany’s VDA automotive industry association told Reuters.

“It is probably the most unusual interview I have ever had,” BILD editor Kai Diekmann said of his meeting with the President-elect. “Nothing is certain of him. No political rules, no diplomatic habits, no certainties believed to be unacceptable,” Diekmann added.

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