BMW has reaffirmed its plans to begin production of 3-series sedans in 2019 at a new plant in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, with an annual capacity of 150,000 units. Krueger said last month that the company could shift production of German-made cars to Spartanburg if Trump enacts higher import tariffs.
"All these companies are very flexible," Belzowski of the University of Michigan said. "It's not going to be free, but they're capable of doing this. You can see it when they add new vehicles to plants. They don't even have to shut down the lines."
Other European automakers potentially affected by higher U.S. import duties or changes to NAFTA, or the imposition of a separate tax on goods from Mexico to pay for a border wall, include Volvo, which exports S60 and S90 sedans from plants in China.
Volkswagen has produced cars in Mexico for 50 years; its sister brand Audi opened a $1.3 billion plant in Mexico last year to build Q5 crossovers.
Volkswagen CEO Matthias Mueller told CNN on Tuesday that he was "worried" about protectionist rhetoric but added he believed "these things will be discussed in a very rational type way."
VW's plant in Puebla, Mexico, is the company's largest outside of Germany, and exports about half its vehicles to the United States. The company recently said it would ramp up production of the Tiguan crossover there to 130,000 annual units.
"We have always based our activities on NAFTA, and we hope that will be possible with the new administration also," Mueller said.
Hakan Samuelsson, CEO of Volvo, noted that half of the production from the company's coming plant in South Carolina would be exported, which he said demonstrates that free trade creates, rather than threatens, American jobs.
At the company's financial results conference last month, he said: "If there is more protectionism, then the consumer will be asked to pay more and that will lower growth. Regardless of what happens, Volvo will be competitive on the market."
Douglas A. Bolduc and Bloomberg contributed to this report.