“Build them in the USA or face big border tax,” President-elect Donald Trump told carmakers on, what else, Twitter.
Ford and Fiat Chrysler both seemed to take the hint, with announcements of big investments. BMW’s response was somewhat different.
The company told the BBC it is “absolutely” committed to a new plant in Mexico.
Does this amount to the German multinational saying “sure buddy, how much d’you want us to pay?” to Mr Trump and his team?
Perhaps. The truth is that there is more spin in the story of Mr Trump, carmakers, and their investment decisions, than there is in the record the late, great Pete Burns sang about in his biggest hit.
Ford’s decision to shelve a $1.6bn (£1.3bn) investment in Mexico, while investing an extra $700m in Detroit, has been seen as concrete evidence that Mr Trump’s economic nationalism is succeeding before he has even got into office.
Ford, however, said its decision to shift its focus from petrol cars in Mexico to electric vehicles in Detroit was made for its own business reasons. And the Ford Focus will still be made in Mexico.
So do you believe Ford? Or do you believe the media commentators crediting Trump with the decision? Or is the reality something in between.
Electric is the auto industry’s future, so Ford has good reason to prioritise it. On the other hand, it’s also true that even if Mr Trump’s bellicose statements didn’t play any role in Ford’s announcement this time around, they will do in future.
All businesses of all descriptions take the domestic political environment into consideration when considering investment decisions (which is something Brexiteers need to learn). Does this mean those based in the USA are more likely to stay home in future? Quite possibly.
Does this mean Fiat Chrysler announced a $1bn plan to produce three Jeep models in the American mid-west on Sunday as a direct response to Mr Trump? Quite probably not. The plan was, in all likelihood, on the boardroom table before his election victory. The company’s timing of the announcement was very sharp, however. Look, see, we’re the good guys.
That timing allows Mr Trump to claim a huge win for his “America First” stance. But it will also, crucially, help both companies' lobbyists, with getting heard by the new administration.
Donald Trump's most controversial quotes
Donald Trump's most controversial quotes
1/18 On John McCain
Asked about Senator John McCain – a former POW in Vietnam – at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa: “He’s not a war hero... He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” 18 July 2015
2/18 On Megyn Kelly
“You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her wherever.” 7 August 2015
3/18 On Vladimir Putin
“He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader, unlike what we have in this country.” 18 December 2015
4/18 On his popularity
“I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.” 23 January 2016
5/18 On torture
"I would bring back waterboarding and I'd bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding." 7 February 2016
6/18 On his body
“Look at those hands, are they small hands? And, [Republican rival Marco Rubio] referred to my hands: ‘If they’re small, something else must be small.’ I guarantee you there’s no problem. I guarantee.” 3 March 2016
7/18 On Hillary Clinton
“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.” 27 July 2016
8/18 On Captain Khan's parents
In an interview with ABC news after the Democratic National Convention, Trump speculates about the parents of killed Muslim soldier Captain Humayun Khan: "I saw him. He was, you know, very emotional. And probably looked like — a nice guy to me. His wife, if you look at his wife, she was standing there. She had nothing to say. She probably — maybe she wasn't allowed to have anything to say." 30 July
9/18 On the Second Amendment
"Hillary wants to abolish — essentially abolish the Second Amendment. By the way, if she gets to pick, if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don't know." 9 August 2016
10/18 On President Barack Obama
“He is the founder of Isis.” 10 August
11/18 On sexual assault
In a statement regarding the release of a 2005 video in which he can be heard boasting about sexual assault: “This was locker room banter, a private conversation that took place many years ago. Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course.” 7 October 2016
12/18 On Hillary Clinton's emails
“I hate to say it but if I win I'm going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation. There has never been so many lies, so much deception. You ought to be ashamed of yourself.” 9 October 2016
13/18 On avoiding income tax
Also during the second debate, he was confronted about evading federal income tax for almost two decades: "I absolutely used it, and so did Warren Buffett, and so did George Soros and so did many people who Hillary is getting money from." 9 October 2016
14/18 On his accusers
Referring to one of his accusers at a rally in North Carolina: “Believe me, she would not be my first choice, that I can tell you.” 14 October 2016
15/18 On Hillary Clinton
“Such a nasty woman” 19 October
16/18 On pro-life policies
At the third debate he was asked about his pro-life policies: “Based on what she's saying ... you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month, on the final day, and that's unacceptable." 19 October 2016
17/18 On the 'rigged' election system
“I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election — if I win.” 20 October
18/18 On suing his accusers
Speaking at the iconic Gettysburg Address in Pennsylvania, he promised to get his revenge against the more than dozen women who have accused him of sexual assault. "Total fabrication. The events never happened. Never. All of these liars will be sued after the election is over.” 22 October
BMW, by contrast, has made a rod for its own back. Mr Trump is an avid consumer of media. The BBC’s headline “BMW ‘absolutely committed’ to a new Mexican plant” will certainly be seen across the Atlantic.
Given what his quote has given rise to, sales and marketing director Ian Robertson is probably feeling less than comfortable at this moment.
He might have been better to have tired to avoid answering the question by saying something like “our investment plans depend on the business outlook but we’re committed to investing heavily in both the US and Mexico”. Better still not to say anything at all in such a febrile environment.
I’d imagine he's having some difficult conversations with his bosses right now.Reuse content