The Detroit Three carmakers for years have built some vehicles in other countries that they sell in the United States.
With President Donald Trump having run against the nation's trade deficit and vowing to rebuild American manufacturing jobs, the practice has faced renewed criticism. That was magnified when General Motors on Nov. 26 announced plans to idle three North American assembly plants, including final assembly plants in Michigan and Ohio.
Last year, 47 percent of the vehicles sold in the United States were imported, according to the Center for Automotive Research and U.S. International Trade Association. Of those built and sold in the United States, a little more than half were Detroit Three cars.
Of vehicles built in Canada and Mexico and sold in the United States, 43 percent are Detroit brands.
In Ford's case, about 80 percent of what it sells in the United States is assembled at U.S. factories.
GM also has heavy production here. It also is the leading automaker in Mexico, where it's retooled plants and allocated more SUV and pickup production in recent years.
Fiat Chrysler has high production outside the United States, but has recently promised to invest $4.5 billion more in metro Detroit plants, promising some 6,500 jobs.
GM's Mexican move
Earlier this year, Trump unleashed a series of tweets urging GM to reopen its plant in Lordstown, Ohio, one of the factories it said in November that it would idle. Detroit-Hamtramck, another of those plants, will build the Cadillac CT6 and Chevrolet Impala sedans until January 2020.
GM has been retooling its San Luis Potosi plant and Ramos Arizpe facility in Mexico in recent years to shift to SUV and pickup production. It builds the new Chevrolet Blazer SUV in Ramos Arizpe.
Fiat Chrysler had considered moving production of its heavy duty Ram pickups from Mexico to Warren, but has since opted to keep it in Mexico and invest $4.5 billion in metro Detroit facilities to build other products here.
News that GM will invest $2.7 billion in two of its plants in Brazil, creating some 400 jobs there, has riled critics after some 14,000 GM hourly and salaried North America workers lost jobs in the company's restructuring plan. GM said the plan will save it $2.5 billion this year.
Offsetting some of that, GM has said it would build the Cadillac XT6 at its plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee, and it is investing in its plant in Lake Orion to build an electric vehicle in the future.
Automakers have made some production decisions based on tariffs imposed by Trump on Chinese products. The United States has imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum from China and put a 25 percent tax on autos imported from China.
It was enough to prompt Ford to cancel plans to import the Focus Active crossover from China to the United States in August 2018. The Focus Active was meant to take the place of the Ford Focus as Ford phases out the car to shift production to pickups and SUVs.
Last August, GM asked that its Buick Envision midsize SUV be exempt from a tariff increase, saying that if not, it may have to drop the vehicle from its U.S. offerings. GM builds the Envision in China because that's where it sells most of the Envisions. Buick sold 206,863 vehicles in the United States last year, 30,152 of which were Envisions, down 26.5 percent from 2017.
As of March 27, GM said it had not received word on its exemption request and still offers the Envision in the United States.
Buick "desperately" needs exemptions from tariffs, said Michelle Krebs, executive analyst for Autotrader, because the bulk of its models are imported.
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