WASHINGTON -- Donald Trump's come-from-behind victory over Hillary Clinton in the U.S. presidential election signals that the state of the U.S. auto industry was clearly on the mind of the American voter.
Not the industry that is reporting record profits and sales after a near-death experience, but the one that shed dozens of plants and tens of thousands of high-paying jobs in the years leading to the 2008-09 crisis, leaving just a shell of itself in once-thriving manufacturing communities across America.
And if the president-elect follows through on his campaign pledges to renegotiate NAFTA, tax cars imported from Mexico and put a stop to new regulation, he would deliver a jolt to an industry that has been betting billions of dollars on globalized production and higher fuel efficiency.
In his victory speech from Trump Tower in Manhattan, Trump said he congratulated Clinton and her family on a "very, very hard fought campaign" and praised her service to the nation, saying "we owe her a major debt of gratitude."
By that time, Trump had garnered 276 electoral votes, according to the Associated Press, landing a wave of victories in key swing states such as Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.
Republicans retained control of both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.
Trump also struck a conciliatory tone after a long, divisive campaign.
"Now it’s time for America to bind the wounds of division. Have to get together," Trump said. "To all Republicans, and Democrats and Independents across this nation, I say it is time for us to come together as one united people."
Trump's surprise election unleashed turmoil in world financial markets, similar to the crash that followed the Brexit vote in the UK.
Future indexes for the S&P 500, Nasdaq and Dow Jones Industrial Average all fell by more than 2 percent by shortly after 3:00 a.m. Eastern time. Japan's benchmark Nikkei index fell more than 900 points, or more than 5 percent.
A deep or protracted decline in U.S. financial markets, and a loss of wealth, could add a new risk factor for the car market as it begins to level off from years of strong growth.
The success of Trump's populist appeal serves as a clear sign that the industry's soaring recovery hasn't fully healed the deep wounds sustained by Rust Belt manufacturing communities that have seen jobs lost to globalization and automation.
Before a raucous crowd in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in the early hours of Election Day, Trump invoked a vision of a U.S. manufacturing sector that had been hollowed out by unfair trade policies, which he vowed to overhaul.
"The trade policies of Hillary Clinton, from NAFTA to China to Korea to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which by the way is a disaster, have raided your factories, crushed your auto industry and gutted your communities," he said. "You know it."
He reiterated his campaign pledge to renegotiate NAFTA, saying he'd "terminate" the pact if "we don't get the deal we want" and negotiate a "much better deal for our workers and our companies."
He also reiterated his campaign pledge to impose a 35 percent tax on products made in Mexico and shipped back to the U.S. by companies that move jobs to the country. It's unclear what legal mechanisms Trump would use to impose such a tax.
Trump's vision stood in stark contrast to the image painted by President Obama at a Monday rally in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
"Plants that were closing when I took office are working double-shift now," Obama told a cheering crowd. "The auto industry has record sales … Manufacturing jobs have grown at the fastest rate since the '90s -- when another Clinton was President. I think we've earned some credibility here."