The two main sticking points behind Trump's push to build more cars in the US

Big 3 US plants build 70% of vehicles sold in US

President Donald Trump is hitting the gas on his bid to have more vehicles built in the U.S.

Ahead of Tuesday's meeting with the CEOs of General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler, Trump tweeted that he wants "new plants to be built here for cars sold here!"

He reiterated that determination during the morning's meeting, promising to make it more economical for automakers to build vehicles in the U.S.

As the president puts pressure on automakers to bring jobs back to the U.S., here are two numbers that are likely gnawing at him.

Auto imports are near a record high

Last year, Americans bought 17.55 million new vehicles — and 43 percent of them were imported. That's more than 7.5 million cars, trucks, SUVs and minivans coming in from around the world.

The two biggest countries shipping vehicles to the U.S. were Mexico, at 11 percent, and Canada, at 10 percent. Detroit's Big Three automakers alone brought in 2.25 million vehicles that were eventually sold to Americans.

Trump has repeatedly said that automakers can — and should — be building those vehicles in the U.S. On Tuesday, he told GM's Mary Barra, Ford's Mark Fields and Fiat Chrysler's Sergio Marchionne that he would make operating in the U.S. more attractive for them, by cutting regulations and taxes.

"We just had a great conversation with the president, and he is very focused on the policies that will grow investment, jobs, here in America and American industry and of course in the automotive industry," Fields said after the meeting.

Ford factory in Michigan
Getty Images

Still, don't expect auto CEOs to immediately announce multibillion-dollar investments to bring production back from Mexico. That's because the cost of building a vehicle there is far cheaper.

Take the Ford Fusion, a midsize sedan the automaker builds in Mexico. The Center for Automotive Research estimates Ford can manufacture that car for approximately $1,200 less in Mexico than in the U.S.

Of course, the economics could change if Trump moves forward with plans to tax imports by 35 percent.

Auto jobs are still below recession levels

When the U.S. auto industry almost collapsed in 2009, the Big Three automakers cut hundreds of thousands of jobs and closed several assembly plants. By June 2009, U.S. auto manufacturing jobs bottomed out at 623,500, according the U.S. Department of Labor.

Since then, as demand has rebounded, automakers and suppliers have hired more than 300,000 workers. That's welcome news in states like Michigan, Ohio and Indiana, where the auto industry supplies hundreds of thousands of jobs. Still, the number of people working in the industry is well below the 1.1 million it employed in January 2006.

Trump has said more plants will lead to more blue-collar jobs.

"We have a very big push on to have auto plants and other plants — many other plants," Trump told reporters Tuesday. "It's happening."

So far, the United Auto Workers has not commented on the president's push. But there's no doubt union leaders would love to see another GM, Ford or Fiat Chrysler plant where they could add hundreds of new members.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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