China Hands Trump a Win by Temporarily Slashing Tariffs on American-Made Cars

A Hongqi E-Jing GT electric concept car at this year’s Beijing Auto Show. AP Photo.
The Morning ShiftAll your daily car news in one convenient place. Isn't your time more important?

Tariffs are down to a cool 15 percent from 40, Tesla workers are fighting the good fight, and Luxembourg just made America look like a chump. All that and more on The Morning Shift for Friday, the 14th of December.

1st Gear: China Cuts 25 Percent Tariff On American-Made Cars

The news you’ll hear this morning is that China has dropped its retaliatory 25 percent tariff on American-made cars, cooling the heat of the trade war we have going on. The more precise details are laid out in a Japan Times article. This is a 90-day suspension, going from a total of a 40 percent tariff down to 15 percent, all done in response to America announcing the same on December 1st, per the Times:

China announced a 90-day suspension on Friday of tariff hikes on $126 billion of U.S. cars, trucks and auto parts following its cease-fire in a trade battle with Washington that threatens global economic growth.

The suspension is China’s first step in response to President Donald Trump’s Dec. 1 agreement to suspend U.S. tariff hikes for a similar 90-day period while the two sides negotiate over American complaints about Beijing’s technology policy and trade surplus.

[...]

Beijing will suspend a 25 percent import charge on $66 billion of cars and trucks and a 5 percent charge on $60 billion of auto parts, effective Jan. 1, the Finance Ministry announced.

Advertisement

The U.S. already exports about 250,000 cars a year to China (much of which are “German” Mercedes and BMW crossovers, built in Alabama and South Carolina, respectively), and China exports only about 50,000 cars to the U.S. (much of which are Volvos and a few Cadillacs).

This comes at a time when China’s super strong auto market has started to slow, with cars sitting on lots longer and longer each month, as Automotive News China reports.

Certainly the impetus to calm this all down is present, but we’ll have to see if 90 days is enough time for everyone to become friends.

2nd Gear: Tesla Workers Start Union Drive At Solar Panel Plant

Tesla workers at the company’s solar panel plant in Buffalo, NY are starting a union drive with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the United Steelworkers, as Bloomberg reports in a news brief today. The issue at hand is better pay, which Tesla claims is more than enough. Per Bloomberg:

A Tesla spokesperson said that Tesla pays workers an average of $16.20 an hour and gives them benefits and an equity stake in the company. Tesla also pays performance bonuses, and said that the hourly wages are better than the average production worker makes in the Buffalo region.

“We offer wages and benefits that exceed those of other comparable manufacturing jobs in the region, and we recently increased our base pay even further,” Tesla said in a statement. “In addition, unlike other manufacturers, every single employee is an owner of Tesla, as everyone receives stock upon hire and for good performance, which results in significantly more compensation beyond our already high wages.”

Workers want better pay, according to the union. “I wanted to work at Tesla because I wanted a job in green energy, a job that can change the world,” said Rob Walsh, another organizing committee member. “But I also want a fair wage for my work.”

Advertisement

I don’t see why Tesla wouldn’t want its employees to unionize if the company thinks it’s so nice and fair to them, but I’m biased. Jalopnik and the entire Gizmodo Media shop unionized under nice management and in good times and it has been a blessing as that road got rockier for reasons outside our control.

3rd Gear: Kia Only Now Gets Its First EV, And No Prizes For Guessing Where

While us Americans are still waiting for the Niro EV to go on sale early next year, Kia buyers in China are already getting in on the electric Kia thing. The KX3 EV is related to the Niro (I believe they’re on the same platform), but the KX3 is made in China for the Chinese market only. Specs don’t seem terrible, per Automotive News China’s report:

The electric KX3 has a starting price of 239,800 yuan ($34,855). The price is lowered to 147,300 yuan after government subsidies, according to Dongfeng Yueda Kia, Kia’s joint venture with Dongfeng Motor Group, that builds the light vehicle.


The KX3 is fitted with an electric motor with a maximum power of 81.4 kW and a maximum torque 285 Nm.

Powered by a lithium battery pack with a nominal load of 45.2kWh, it has a range of 300 kilometers and a maximum speed of 150 km per hour, according to Dongfeng Yueda Kia. 

Advertisement

Again, it’s looking more and more like strong government EV quotas are making China the leading market for electric cars. That’s not helped by America dropping the ball entirely on auto regs under the Trump admin.

4th Gear: Nissan Plans To Sue Ghosn’s Sister

Things are getting messy in the Ghosn case, per the Japan Times:

Nissan Motor Co. plans to file a lawsuit with a Rio de Janeiro court against a sister of former Chairman Carlos Ghosn after an internal probe found she had improperly gained from a contract to serve as an adviser, sources said Friday.

The latest move came as the investigation continues into the 64-year-old Ghosn’s alleged underreporting of his remuneration in the company’s financial statements. Nissan has said it uncovered Ghosn’s financial misconduct through an internal probe.

The probe also showed his sister was receiving $100,000 a year for an advisory service never provided under a contract signed in 2002, according to the sources.

Advertisement

This is all starting to feel a little mafia movie-esque.

5th Gear: Luxembourg Will Make Bus And Subway Rides Free

I feel like one of the best things we could do for this country would be to completely abolish any cost of public transportation. But I’ll have a better idea of how right I am come 2020, as I’ll have something of a case study to work with. That’s when the small European nation of Luxembourg drops the cost of riding on the bus or metro to nothing, as Germany’s Der Spiegel reports:

Rail and bus travel will be free in Luxembourg from the first quarter of 2020. “Luxembourg will be the first country in the world to be able to use public transport spontaneously or on schedule and get in and out of the car without worrying about which ticket to buy,” said Prime Minister Xavier Bettel during his government statement in front of the Parliament of the Grand Duchy. “It’s a good thing to see and adds to the image and attractiveness of Luxembourg,” he added.

Up to now public transport in the Grand Duchy has been financed by the state at about 90 per cent with very low ticket prices. Teenagers up to 20 years and students are already driving for free. A one-way ticket costs two euros and is valid for two hours throughout the country.

Advertisement

I never thought I’d see the day when Iwas wishing America was acting more like a grand duchy, but here we are.

Reverse: Kiss ‘Em

Advertisement

Neutral: Is This The End Of The Trade War?

One of the lines in that Japan Times report has me thinking:

Economists say 90 days probably is too little time to resolve conflicts that have bedeviled U.S.-Chinese relations for years. They say Beijing’s goal probably will be to show it is making progress so Trump extends his deadline.

Advertisement

Basically, do you think that this is the start of the end, or are things going to go right back to being bad again? How much stability have we got?

Share This Story

About the author

Raphael Orlove

Raphael Orlove is features editor for Jalopnik.