A top U.S. executive with South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Co. said President Donald Trump has “targeted” international car companies with tariff threats, showing little regard for whether those automakers build vehicles in the U.S. and employ Americans.
“The scary thing is there seems to be a lot of conversation around import-based companies and not even much realization that there’s a huge amount of vehicles produced here by international companies,” Brian Smith, Hyundai Motor America’s chief operating officer, said in an interview. “The whole tariff conversation isn’t around, ‘Well, we’ll produce here in the United States and everything’s fine.’ It’s more about, the international companies seem to be being targeted.”
Smith was among 10 auto executives who met with the president in the White House last month to discuss issues including trade. Within weeks, the Commerce Department began investigating whether imported cars are threatening U.S. national security, and the administration is said to be considering tariffs of as much as 25%.
President Trump travels to Canada on Friday for a Group of Seven meeting after having stoked trade tensions with U.S. allies. Hyundai produces more than half the models it sells in America, including the Sonata sedan and Santa Fe sport utility vehicle, at a factory in Alabama that employs 2,700 full-time workers.
By Keith Naughton