Tesla on the winning end of proposed U.S. import tax

U.S. automobile sales might slow as a result of the proposed import tax affecting vehicles with manufacturers outside of the country. However, this change could stimulate up to 1 million additional vehicles could be manufactured in the U.S., which would add 50,000 more jobs at car production and part assembly plants.

That good news/ bad news scenario is according to researchers at Baum & Associates, LLC, which advises suppliers. Their report is intended to provide estimates to show the relative impact of the tax plan on each automaker. Dan Luria, an economist at the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center in Ann Arbor, is the lead author of the Baum & Associates report, which accounts for imports of both finished vehicles and parts for domestic cars that are made overseas.

According to a report by Bloomberg, Tesla is the single automaker that would be able to maintain consistent pricing before and after such a tax implementation, as it manufactures all its cars in the U.S. and incorporates predominately U.S. made parts.

Border tax consequences for automakers

According to Baum & Associates, LLC, most automakers would need to raise vehicle prices by thousands of dollars. They would also likely have to assume a portion of the higher tax burden.

  • Ford, with significant domestic manufacturing, would accrue the smallest price hike among major automakers, at about $282 per vehicle;
  • General Motors Co. would experience a $995 increase per vehicle;
  • Volvo and VW vehicle prices would have to rise by about $7,600 and $6,800, on average;
  • Jaguar’s Land Rover, which is 100% imported, would require an increase of more than $17,000 per vehicle.

According to Alan Baum, the founder of the West Bloomfield, Michigan-based firm which produced the report, “The plan results in a net cost for automakers. Each company will then make its own decisions on pricing in order to best compete and maximize its profits.”

In what direction might a proposed border tax shift automakers’ current business practices? Essentially, the tax would create an incentive for automakers to keep U.S. plants running at the expense of those in Canada and Mexico. It could also steer auto companies currently conducting business in the U.S. to other markets.

  • Automakers may boost U.S. parts procurement and production from existing vehicle assembly plants;
  • Overseas automakers including Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd.’s Subaru, Mitsubishi Motors Corp., Mazda Motor Corp., Hyundai Motor Co., and Kia Motors Corp. may consider expanding existing U.S. operations or building new capacity;
  • Volkswagen AG could build another U.S. assembly plant;
  • Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV may accelerate the conversion of factories in Michigan to build pickups there instead of Mexico;
  • Nissan Motor Co. might export more from Mexico to Latin American markets and less to the U.S.;
  • Mazda and Mitsubishi, which rely entirely on imports to the U.S. market, may have to quit the U.S. market or pay other manufacturers to assemble their cars.

Meanwhile, Toyota Motor Corp. is one of the corporations that is warning that the proposed border tax will result in many costlier products, not only in automobiles, but also in food, clothing, and gasoline, among other areas.

Other analysts weigh in on the effects of a proposed border tax

It’s not just Baum and associates who are advising clients on their prospective bottom lines should a border tax become legislated by U.S. officials. Other analysts are weighing in on the proposed border tax effects on commerce. Colin Langan, an analyst at UBS Securities LLC, argues that the proposed border tax could raise average prices in the U.S. by about 8 percent, or $2,500 per vehicle.

The border tax has the potential to reduce annual sales by about 2 million vehicles, Langan said.

He also projects that, while the tax has the potential to move through the House of Representatives, it is “very unlikely” to pass in the Senate. Langan predicts the chances of the border tax being enacted at less than 50 percent.

The proposal to begin levying companies’ imports and domestic sales and make exports tax-exempt would completely overhaul the U.S. tax code.

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