The American president threatened the German auto industry with punitive tariffs. They stayed away. But the trust is gone. BMW, Daimler & Co. are wondering what comes after Donald Trump.

Made in America: Volkswagen employees in Tennessee celebrated the new edition of the Atlas sporty off-road vehicle last year.

Donald Trump was not really in office yet, so he immediately chose the German auto industry as the enemy of the American economy. In January 2017, a few days before his inauguration, the 45th President of the United States threatened German automakers with punitive tariffs.

In an interview he criticized the trade relations between the United States and Germany as one-sided and chose the auto industry as evidence: “When you walk down Fifth Avenue, everyone has a Mercedes-Benz in front of their house, right? The fact is that you were very unfair to the United States. ”So now the Germans should“ pay 35 percent tax for every car that comes to the United States, ”said Trump, recommending in particular the Munich-based car company BMW, which is currently participating had begun building a factory in Mexico, and building one in the United States.

Almost four years and several other enemy images later, the German auto industry has largely disappeared from Trump’s sights. In any case, she does not appear at the forefront of his election campaign. During this time, German manufacturers continued to expand their capacities across the Atlantic, as they had planned for a long time. Daimler in Tuscaloosa, BMW in Spartanburg and Volkswagen in Chattanooga have implemented their announced investments in locations.

New free trade agreement is effective

BMW has invested around one billion euros in its plant in the state of South Carolina, which, with an export value of around 10 billion dollars, is considered the largest exporter among the car manufacturers in North America – ahead of its domestic competitors General Motors and Ford. At the same time, BMW built the Trump’s criticized factory in San Luis Potosí, Mexico, in which three-series sedans now roll off the assembly line. Nobody talks about political influence. “The fact is that the key decisions were made before the Trump era. This applies to the production program, to the volumes and also to the new models such as the BMW X7, which had its world premiere at the IAA 2017, ”says a company spokesman.

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The Germans complied with a requirement of the American government. The Trump administration had demanded that more automotive value creation take place in the United States. It should be 75 percent – this is what the USMCA negotiated under Trump’s North American free trade agreement provides. Before Trump took office, however, the share of added value to be achieved in America was still 62.5 percent. There is also the requirement that a large part of the added value must take place in an environment in which the work is paid at $ 16 an hour. Apparently none of this was a problem for BMW, as the company prefers to buy locally anyway for reasons of cost and efficiency. “We meet the local content requirements,” says the spokesman.