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Trump attacks General Motors over China, US employment

Key Points
  • President Donald Trump on Friday attacked General Motors for its operations in China and questioned whether the automaker should move its operations to the U.S.
  • GM declined to comment directly on the tweet, which included several inaccurate or misleading claims.
  • GM shares Friday morning were relatively unchanged after opening at $37.25.
President Donald Trump, left, listens during a Strategic and Policy Forum meeting with business leaders and White House advisors in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Feb. 3, 2017.
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

DETROIT – President Donald Trump on Friday attacked General Motors for its significant presence in China and questioned whether the automaker should move the operations to the U.S.

Trump, in a tweet, said GM, "once the Giant of Detroit, is now one of the smallest auto manufacturers there. They moved major plants to China, BEFORE I CAME INTO OFFICE. This was done despite the saving help given them by the USA. Now they should start moving back to America again?"

Many of the claims in the tweet against the Detroit automaker were misleading or inaccurate, according to industry data and officials.

GM remains the largest automaker in the U.S. by sales, however it has been surpassed by crosstown rivals Ford Motor and Fiat Chrysler in the number of union-represented American workers it employs. Overall, GM says it employs nearly 100,000 people in the U.S. at 132 locations in 27 states.

GM declined to comment directly on the tweet, which comes a day after Bloomberg News reported GM's 46,000 UAW workers trails Ford by about 9,000 and Fiat Chrysler by roughly 1,200.

The tweet also comes a week after China announced it would reimpose a 25% tariff later this year on American vehicles entering the country as part of the ongoing trade war with the U.S.

China

Regarding China, GM has never moved a facility from the U.S. to China. The automaker has long had a significant presence in China, including sales of more than 3.6 million vehicles last year. That compares with 3 million in the U.S. in 2018.

"They didn't move any factories there," said John Bonnell, a senior advisor at ZoZo Go, a firm that advises automakers on doing business in China. "The rules in China dictate that to successfully sell in China, you've got to produce in China."

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Nearly all of the vehicles GM produces in China are sold in the country, however, it does import the Buick Envision from China to the U.S. GM sold 30,152 Envisions last year in the U.S., which represented 1% of its domestic sales.

Bonnell said it wouldn't be good business for any company currently operating in China to move out of the country, to then export to China.

"Anybody supplying GM in China, they're going to stay in China," he said. "They're not going to get out of China to supply to China."

Detroit

GM remains one of the largest employers in the region, however, it did announce plans last year to potentially close its sole manufacturing facility in the city limits of Detroit. Aside from the Detroit plant, which is scheduled to end production by January, GM operates four large assembly plants and several powertrain and parts facilities.

Overall, GM says it employs more than 47,900 people in Michigan at 33 locations.

If GM does close the Detroit facility as part of union negotiations this year, Fiat Chrysler will be the only manufacturer of the Detroit automakers with an assembly plant in the city. The Italian-American automaker also is in the process of adding a second assembly plant in Detroit.

GM's stock was up less than 1% midafternoon Friday. Shares of Ford and Fiat Chrysler also were up modestly.

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Correction: GM has 46,000 UAW workers, according to a Bloomberg report. A previous version of this story misstated the number.