Toyota president Akio Toyoda. REUTERS/BRENDAN MCDERMID
Toyota president Akio Toyoda. REUTERS/BRENDAN MCDERMID

Tokyo — Japan’s car makers’ lobby said on Tuesday it was dismayed by President Donald Trump’s declaration that some imported vehicles and parts posed a threat to US national security, as the industry braces for a possible rise in US tariffs.

Trump made the unprecedented designation of foreign vehicles on Friday but delayed for up to six months a decision on whether to impose tariffs to allow for more time for trade talks with Japan and the EU.

“We are dismayed to hear a message suggesting that our long-time contributions of investment and employment in the US are not welcomed,” said Akio Toyoda, chairman of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association.

“As chairman, I am deeply saddened by this decision,” Toyoda, president of Toyota Motor, said in a statement.

Trump has threatened to impose tariffs of up to 25% on imported cars made by foreign car makers, a move which car makers have argued would ramp up car prices, curb the global competitiveness of US-made vehicles and limit investment in the country, the world’s No2 vehicle market.

The US is a vital market for Toyota, Nissan, Honda and other Japanese car makers. Autos and components are among the Asian country's biggest export products.

Most of Japan’s major car makers operate plants in the US. At least half of the cars and trucks sold in the country by Japan’s top three car makers are made in the US.

Major car makers have announced a slew of investments in the US since Trump took office in January 2017 and put pressure on the industry to create more US jobs.

For its part, Toyota has pledged to invest almost $13bn in the US between 2017 and 2021 to boost manufacturing capacity and jobs. This includes $1.6bn for a vehicle assembly plant in Alabama jointly run with Mazda.