US President Donald Trump lashed out at carmaker General Motors on Monday, after an announcement from the company that it will shed 15% of its salaried workforce and halt production at five plants in North America.
“They better damn well open a new plant there very quickly,” Trump said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal on Monday. “I love Ohio,” he said, adding: “I told them, ‘You’re playing around with the wrong person.’
“I said, ‘I heard you’re closing your plant,’” recounting a conversation with GM chief executive officer Mary Barra. “’It’s not going to be closed for long, I hope, Mary, because if it is you have a problem,’” he continued.
After hearing from Barra that the Chevrolet Cruze was not selling well, Trump went on: “I said, ‘Then put a car in here that is selling well, but get it opened fast.’”
It was unclear what action Trump was suggesting that Barra might expect should GM fail to replace the halted production.
The decision to cut jobs could pose a political problem for Trump, who depended in part on voters in rust-belt states, two of which were hit by these closures, for his 2016 election victory. After GM’s announcement, critics of Trump’s trade policy noted that rival Ford had said steel tariffs and retaliatory tariffs had cost the company US$1 billion.
GM said in a statement that it made the decisions to get out ahead of changing market conditions.
“We recognize the need to stay in front of changing market conditions and customer preferences to position our company for long-term success,” Barra said in a statement posted to the company’s website.
“These actions will increase the long-term profit and cash generation potential of the company and improve resilience through the cycle,” she added.
Shares of the US carmaker were up 4.79% in New York trading on Monday.