Trump Tariffs May Threaten U.S. Auto Jobs, European Executives Warn

Raising duties on imported cars could prove trickier than on steel and aluminum imports

Volkswagen AG , BMW AG and Daimler AG, which makes Mercedes—have built factories in the U.S. and Mexico in recent years that are geared to export to Europe and China, not just to sell to Americans.

The German manufacturers employ around 36,500 Americans at their factories in South Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee. If U.S. exports face retaliatory tariffs and it becomes more difficult or uncompetitive to export cars from the U.S., European auto makers would likely have to shift those jobs to Mexico or bring them back to Europe.

.. Fears of a global trade war is leading Volvo Cars Corp., the Chinese-owned Swedish auto maker, to reconsider the scope of a new plant that it is building near Charleston, S.C

.. “If the factory in South Carolina could not export, it would be half the size. It would not employ 4,000 people anymore but just 2,000,”

.. Steven Armstrong, president of Ford’s European business, dismissed Mr. Trump’s claims that American auto makers were blocked from selling cars in Europe.

“He obviously hasn’t seen our booth this morning,” Mr. Armstrong said on the sidelines of the Geneva Motor Show. “If the product fits the market, consumers will buy it.”