DETROIT (AP) — President Donald Trump teased an audience with what sounded like inside dope: Five big auto factories or expansions are coming soon to the U.S., he confided.
Though sworn to secrecy by another world leader, he was bursting to tell — “I’ll keep my word, OK, unless you force me” — but stayed mum on who, what, where.
The suspense may have been for naught. A day earlier, Toyota announced additional investments in five existing U.S. plants, for an underwhelming gain of 50 jobs.
Could big new factories also be on the horizon? Always possible, but an expansion of the magnitude hinted at by Trump is unlikely in the declining U.S. auto market.
Reporting at an Indiana event Wednesday about his U.N. meetings last week, the president declared: “I was told by one of the most powerful leaders in the world that they are going to be announcing in the not too distant future five major factories in the U.S. — between increasing and new — five. You’re hearing about that first.
“I said, ‘Thank you very much.’ And he said, ‘You know what? It’s starting to happen in the United States. It’s starting to happen.’ So I just wanted to let you know that. I promised I wouldn’t say who. I’ll keep my word, OK, unless you force me. … It happens to be in the automobile industry.”
On Tuesday, Toyota said it is investing $374 million at its plants in Alabama, Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee and West Virginia, with the anticipated 50 new jobs coming all to the Huntsville, Alabama, factory. Toyota’s chief U.S. spokesman, Scott Vazin, said he did not know whether Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe previewed that news to Trump at the U.N. or whether Trump was referring to Toyota in his Indiana remarks. The White House did not respond when asked to comment.
In August, Toyota and Mazda said they would jointly build a plant in the U.S. to make Toyota Corollas and a new Mazda crossover vehicle, creating up to 4,000 jobs.
Trump has been known to boast about investments that don’t materialize or were planned before he took office. Shortly after the election, for instance, he claimed that he persuaded Ford not to move an assembly plant from Kentucky to Mexico. Ford never intended to move the plant or lay off workers, but it did shelve plans to shift production of one vehicle line made at the Kentucky plant.
Spokesmen for Hyundai, Honda and Subaru all said they aren’t aware of any large factory-expansion plans.
Woodward reported from Washington.
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