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Greenville Business Magazine

BMW responds to Trump's tariff threats

Jun 26, 2018 04:56PM ● By Chris Haire
At a rally Monday night for Gov. Henry McMaster, President Donald J. Trump threatened to put tariffs on imported vehicles from German automaker BMW, as well as Mercedes-Benz.

It's not first time the president has singled out European luxury car manufacturers in one of his America First speeches, but it may have been the first time he did so in a state that owes a tremendous amount of its recent economic success to BMW and other foreign manufacturers.

Immediately after the BMW comments at last night's rally, local and national reporters noted the irony of Trump's comments, given the fact that the German auto giant's entire X series is manufactured in Greer and then shipped internationally out of the Port of Charleston.

It's also worth noting that the state secretary of commerce, Bobby Hitt, is a BMW vet. Hitt's Commerce Department played a key role in wooing Boeing to North Charleston and Volvo to Berkeley County.

In the days before the McMaster rally, a Trump tweet suggesting the addition of a 20 percent tariff on European auto imports sent stock for BMW and Daimler, parent company of Mercedes, plummeting.

Earlier today, a spokesperson for BMW responded.

“The threat of additional tariffs has been around for many months, this is nothing new," says Kenn Sparks, head of corporate communications for BMW of North America, LLC.

"BMW has been a committed corporate citizen in the U.S. for more than a quarter-century. We honor and fulfill our commitments, especially to the more than 70,000 Americans whose jobs and careers we support and sustain, some 10,000 of whom are at our South Carolina plant."

"As a global company, the BMW Group is committed to free trade worldwide.," Sparks adds.

"Free trade is the basis for the $9 billion dollar investment BMW has made to date in our South Carolina plant, which is now our largest in the world, and the highest value exporter of vehicles from the U.S. to more than 130 countries around the world.”

The BMW Group exports more vehicles manufactured in the U.S. than into the country, according to a company report. The Upstate plant is also the auto giant's most productive plant, potentially putting out 450,000 vehicles a year. 

The company also says that 70 percent of the steel and aluminum it uses as its U.S. plants comes from American companies.

To watch the speech, go