Japan defends Toyota after Trump tweets

The Japanese government defends Toyota Motor Corp after U.S. President-elect Donald Trump criticized the automaker’s plan to build a new factory in Mexico.

TOKYO, JAPAN (JANUARY 6, 2017) (REUTERS) – The Japanese government defended Toyota Motor Corp on Friday (January 6), saying that Japan’s automakers have and will continue to contribute to employment in the United States after U.S. President-elect Donald Trump singled out the automaker and threatened to slap punitive tariffs on its Mexico-built cars.

Trump has repeatedly hit out at U.S. companies for using lower-cost factories abroad at the expense of jobs at home. He has slammed U.S. automakers, including Ford which this week scrapped a planned $1.6 billion Mexico plant.

But the attack overnight on Toyota is his first against a foreign automaker. “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 tweeted.

Toyota Motor Corp fell more than 3 percent at one point after Trump threatened to impose heavy taxes on the automaker if it builds its Corolla cars in Mexico for the U.S. market.

Other Japanese carmakers also fell, with both Honda Motor Co and Nissan Motor Co falling more than 2 percent, which influenced on a fall of Japan’s Nikkei share average on Friday.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters on Friday that Toyota was an “important corporate citizen”, while Trade Minister Hiroshige Seko stressed the contribution of Japanese companies to U.S. employment.

“We don’t have any plan to move existing plants in the U.S. to Mexico or other countries,” Seko added.

Toyota is just one of a host of companies operating in Mexico. It has an assembly plant in Baja California, where it produces the Tacoma pick-up truck, and where it could increase production.

Trump’s tweet, however, confused Toyota’s existing Baja plant with the planned $1 billion plant in Guanajuato, where construction got under way in November, days after the election.

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, not the U.S.