Finally, Trump could take a page from the Ronald Reagan playbook and go after Asia. On a list of the most-popular U.S. cars that aren’t made in the U.S., eight of the top 10 come from Japan-based companies. Subaru’s Forester tops the list, followed by Nissan’s Rogue.
On vehicles alone, the U.S. trade balance with Japan is almost twice as large as its gap with Mexico. South Korea, the home of Hyundai and Kia, also sends a steady and fairly one-way stream of cars to America.
A widespread 35% tariff on imported vehicles would have a chilling effect on all three of these regions. Under such a penalty, the entire U.S. auto industry might look a lot like the current market for pickups, which has faced a 25% tariff on imports since the early 1960s. When it comes to trucks, American consumers have far fewer choices than they do for something like a sedan.
The so-called chicken tax (don’t ask) has indeed pushed some foreign automakers to build plants in the U.S. Toyota makes Tacomas in Texas, for example, while Nissan Titans come out of Canton, Miss., and Honda bangs together its Ridgeline in Lincoln, Ala. But some of the biggest names in the business, including Hyundai and Volkswagen, stay out of the segment entirely. Mercedes is adding a pickup truck to its product line this year, but ironically, it has no plans to sell it in America.