Daily Gendai, one of Japan’s leading tabloid newspapers, declared in a front-page headline that “Trump tries to smash Toyota,” Another tabloid, Evening Fuji, hinted at an upcoming battle with its headline, “Trump vs. Toyota.” This was in response to Trump’s warning Friday on Twitter, that he would impose a “big border tax” on the company if it built a new plant in Mexico.
It appeared to be the first time that Trump had taken on a foreign company for plans that did not directly involve the United States, which had a shaky effect on the company – on Friday, shares in Toyota and other carmakers fell in trading on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, and Japanese government officials hustled to respond to the rhetoric with soothing reminders of the jobs that the country’s auto manufacturers had created in the United States.
“Toyota itself has tried to be a good corporate citizen in the US to date,” said Yoshihide Suga, chief cabinet secretary to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Toyota builds Corollas in Cambridge, Ontario, and in Blue Springs, Miss. Jobs will still remain intact at either of those plants, and when the carmaker opens the new facility in Mexico, the company plans to shift the Canadian employees to making small RAV4 SUVs.
Throughout his presidential campaign, Trump made it clear that he would punish American companies that moved manufacturing plants offshore. Soon after he was elected, Trump took credit for persuading Carrier, the air-conditioner company, for keeping 1,000 jobs in Indiana that it had previously planned to move to Mexico. He also thanked Ford Motor on Twitter this week for abandoning plans to build a small-car assembly plant in Mexico that Mr. Trump had repeatedly criticized.
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.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 5, 2017
However, Mr. Trump’s Twitter post was not entirely accurate. He said Toyota would build a new Corolla factory in Baja, but the company is actually planning to build a new plant in Guanajuato, Mexico. More significant, Toyota’s new plant in Mexico will not replace any of its 10 factories in the US, where 136,000 people are employed. The company said it had invested approximately $21.9 billion in the United States.
“I think being fair is not really in the playbook of the president-elect,” said Takuji Okubo, managing director and chief economist at Japan Macro Advisors.
In response to a question about Mr. Trump’s post at a meeting of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association, president of Toyota, Akio Toyoda, stated that the company would not be changing its manufacturing plans in Mexico.
In a report in Japan Today, Mr. Toyoda said, “I don’t know yet exactly how, but, regardless of who becomes president, our business is about being good corporate citizens. And by becoming good corporate citizens, we are facing the same goal of making America strong. And so we will continue to do our best.”