Trump hits Toyota in latest broadside against carmakers and Mexico

Thu Jan 5, 2017 6:13pm EST
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By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President-elect Donald Trump targeted Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T: Quote) on Thursday, threatening to impose a hefty fee on the world's largest automaker if it builds its Corolla cars for the U.S. market at a plant in Mexico.

"Toyota Motor said will build a new plant in Baja, Mexico, to build Corolla cars for U.S. NO WAY! Build plant in U.S. or pay big border tax," Trump said in a post on Twitter.

It was Trump's latest broadside against automakers building cars in Mexico and first against a foreign automaker. The president-elect's attacks on investments by companies in Mexico have cast a shadow over cross-border production networks central to more than $583 billion a year in trade between the two countries.

The value of the Mexican peso has skidded amid fears that Trump's policies would harm Latin America's second-biggest economy -- and declined Thursday after Trump's tweet.

Toyota, which announced plans to build a new Mexican facility in Guanajuato in April 2015, said it would not take away from U.S. employment.

"Toyota looks forward to collaborating with the Trump administration to serve in the best interests of consumers and the automotive industry," Toyota spokesman Scott Vazin said.

Trump's tweet confuses Toyota's existing Baja plant with the planned $1 billion plant in Guanajuato, where construction got under way in November. A Trump spokeswoman did not return a request seeking additional comment.

Baja produces around 100,000 pickup trucks and truck beds annually. The Guanajuato plant will build Corollas and have an annual capacity of 200,000 when it comes online in 2019, shifting production of the small car from Canada.   Continued...

A 2016 Toyota Prius hybrid is seen at the Washington Auto Show in Washington January 29, 2016.  REUTERS/Gary Cameron