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Annual Auto Show Kicks Off In Detroit


The Detroit auto show began over the weekend, which is happening at a moment when the auto industry is very much in the news. President-elect Trump has repeatedly targeted the industry for doing some of its work in Mexico. The industry has been pushing back in places but has some announcements of its own today. Ford and Chrysler are making news, which we will discuss with NPR's Sonari Glinton, who's at the auto show in Detroit. Hi, Sonari.

SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: Hey, Steve, how are you doing?

INSKEEP: I'm OK, sounds interesting where you are. What's Ford saying?

GLINTON: Well, I am actually on the Ford stand where they just announced that there's going to be a new Ford Bronco - remember that? - and a new Ford Ranger that shows their commitment to building trucks and SUV. And it's very important that - trucks are dominating and SUVs are dominating in the U.S. We're building more of them and more of them are being built here in the U.S. Small cars - the American consumer's turning away from small cars right now.

INSKEEP: It had been so long since I'd even thought about the Ford Bronco I had to look it up. It's kind of halfway between a truck and an SUV looks to me.

GLINTON: Exactly. And that's - those are the cars that we're building, and it's interesting that President-elect Trump is, you know, singling out small cars when the industry here is continually saying they're going to be building bigger SUVs and more complex cars here in the U.S.

INSKEEP: But part of the news is more jobs in the United States, more investment in the United States.

GLINTON: Well, that's correct. Chrysler announced that they're going to be spending about a billion dollars here. That seems preemptive. They were the one automaker who hadn't got an angry tweet from the president-elect. Ford is announcing that it's spending money here. And every time you go to one of these press conferences, each of the automakers is intensely saying, like, how much of this car is being built. The Bronco's going to be built in the U.S. The Ranger's going to be built in the U.S., of course, because there are some tariffs that make that so. But Hyundai and other companies are saying, look, we're building in the U.S. and that's an important part of this auto show.

INSKEEP: Sonari, can I just ask - the economy is pretty strong right now, by most measures. Unemployment is very low, and auto sales, after the total trough in - during the Great Recession, have really taken off. Does it just make basic economic sense that the auto companies would be investing more and particularly investing more in the U.S. market at this time regardless of who's president of the United States?

GLINTON: Well, exactly, but they're - I mean, the U.S. is a mature market. So they're investing in sort of mature vehicles - SUVs and things like that. The smaller cars, we're, like we said, we are turning away from small cars. They're sending those, that production, to small car countries where people are buying them. In Mexico, for instance, the demand for these small cars is up while it's falling here, and they can export those cars from Mexico for a lot less. There's no tariffs for almost all of the world because Mexico has free trade agreements with, like, more than 40 countries around the globe. So they can send cars and trucks without tariffs in a way that the U.S. can't.

INSKEEP: OK. Sonari, thanks very much, really appreciate it.

GLINTON: It's always a pleasure, Steve.

INSKEEP: NPR's Sonari Glinton is at the Detroit auto show where Ford and Chrysler have made some news, both saying that they are investing more to build more vehicles within the United States. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sonari Glinton is a NPR Business Desk Correspondent based at our NPR West bureau. He covers the auto industry, consumer goods, and consumer behavior, as well as marketing and advertising for NPR and Planet Money.