GM Building Chevy Blazer in Mexico Risks Provoking Trump's Ire

(Bloomberg) -- Just as U.S. President Donald Trump is threatening tariffs on imported autos, General Motors Co. plans to resurrect the Chevrolet Blazer, this time as a sleeker sport utility vehicle -- made in Mexico.

The new mid-size model -- bigger than the Equinox, smaller than the Traverse -- will go on sale early next year, as GM’s revives a nameplate that went away in 1994 when the boxy, truck-like SUV was renamed the Tahoe. The largest U.S. automaker will assemble the car-based utility at its plant in Ramos Arizpe, Mexico.

The choice of locale could be contentious. Trump has been pressuring automakers to create more jobs in the U.S. and threatened to tear up Nafta and may be preparing to slap a 25 percent tariff on all imported autos in order to bring back assembly work lost to Mexico and elsewhere. GM’s decision was sharply criticized by the United Auto Workers union, which supported Trump’s investigation into vehicle imports.

“This news that the iconic Blazer nameplate will be built in Mexico is disappointing to UAW families and communities across this country,” Terry Dittes, vice president of the UAW’s GM Department, said in a statement. “This is all happening while UAW-GM workers here in the U.S are laid off and unemployed.”

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The president has appealed to working-class voters in part by bemoaning the loss of factory work in the U.S. and blaming unfair trade with other countries.

“After many decades of losing your jobs to other countries, you have waited long enough!” Trump wrote on Twitter in May, before directing the Commerce Department to investigate whether imported cars pose a national security threat. Trump also told top auto industry executives last month in a White House meeting that he wants them to build more vehicles in the U.S.

Chevy Imports

The UAW said GM employs more than 15,000 production workers in Mexico and pays them $3 an hour. The union claims that GM sells more than 80 percent of its Mexico-made vehicles to the U.S. In April, GM cut the second shift at an assembly plant in Lordstown, Ohio, where it makes the slow-selling Chevy Cruze compact car. Chevrolet is expected to import about 780,000 vehicles this year, mostly from Mexico, according to research firm LMC Automotive.

GM chose to make the Blazer in Mexico because the company was planning the vehicle years ago, when all of its SUV plants were running on three shifts, spokeswoman Katie Amann said. The Ramos Arizpe factory was the only assembly plant with enough capacity for the Blazer, she said by phone.

The Blazer probably will find eager buyers, said Jeremy Acevedo, manager of industry analysis at auto market researcher Edmunds.

“Car buyers love the return of a familiar name, and Chevrolet is picking an ideal time to bring back the Blazer,” Acevedo said in an email. “A four-door Blazer is square in line with what shoppers want and what Chevy was missing from its lineup.”

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