GENEVA — If it wasn't universal condemnation, it was close.
President Donald Trump's steel and aluminum tariffs and his threat of a "Tax on their Cars" drew everything from eye rolls to outrage at the auto show here — plus retorts from some executives that the gathering storm could derail planned U.S. investments.
Executives were trying to wrap their heads around what many had feared would be the biggest man-made threat to the industry since the Great Recession. The actual tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum, effective March 23, carry exemptions for Canada and Mexico and the possibility of further exemptions, proving somewhat less onerous than what was expected. Even so, executives had to make contingency plans for a global trade war.
The worst-case scenario?
"Everybody would lose," Volvo CEO Hakan Samuelsson said. "This includes Volvo because our whole system is based on free trade. And the consumers would lose out because they will have more expensive goods, including cars."
Didier Leroy, chairman of Toyota Motor Europe, warned, "If there is some tax, it will raise the price, and the customer pays the bill. Then you have potential reaction from China, Europe, other places in the world, and there is no winner."