Tariffs Seek to End Chinese Car Imports Before They Really Start

A small-but-growing number of Chinese-assembled cars making their way to the U.S. auto market could be under threat as the Trump administration looks to slap a 25 percent duty on about $50 billion worth of imported goods.

So far, sales of Chinese-made cars in the U.S. have been minimal. Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd.-owned Volvo Cars started importing S60 sedans from the country in 2015. General Motors Co. has followed with the Buick Envision sport utility vehicle and Cadillac CT6 plug-in hybrid, with both selling stateside in small numbers: 4,367 Envisions were sold in the U.S. last month, less than 1.5 percent of GM’s total sales, plus only 17 plug-in Cadillac CT6s, according to Autodata Corp.

Ford Motor Co. doesn’t import any models from China yet but plans to start bringing its Focus compact in from China next year. A spokeswoman for Ford said the carmaker encourages both governments to work together to resolve issues and declined to comment further. Spokesmen for GM and Volvo didn’t immediately reply to requests for comment.

“At this point, the decision would put on hold any plans to import cars,” said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting for LMC Automotive, adding that, “it’s really ploy to get the Chinese to the table.”

The real upshot for carmakers in the U.S. is that companies may think twice about any future imports. If President Donald Trump goes through with the proposal, he would add a duty for most cars and commercial trucks, as well as many auto parts. The tariffs aren’t final yet, and the Trump administration has indicated it’s open to negotiations with China.

The suggested tariffs also complicate Guangzhou Automobile Group Co.’s plans to enter the U.S. auto market next year. The Chinese automaker last month met with U.S. auto dealers in Las Vegas as it plots out bringing the GS8, a seven-passenger SUV with voice-activated windshield wipers, to American shores. An outside spokeswoman for GAC declined to comment on the proposed tariffs.

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