WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump said the administration would help the U.S. auto industry manage the impact of the coronavirus amid concerns about the health of auto-parts manufacturers.
“We’re watching the auto industry very much,” Trump said Thursday on a call with state governors. “We’re going to be helping them out at least a little bit and they’ve sort of requested some help, and it wasn’t their fault what happened. So we’ll be taking care of the auto industry.”
His comment was prompted by Michigan Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who said she had concerns about the finances of some suppliers.
Earlier Thursday, the Motor Equipment Manufacturers Association asked congressional leaders to create a "Manufacturing Emergency Assistance" grant program "to keep the doors open, preserve jobs, and prevent bankruptcies in the vital manufacturing sector."
In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other top lawmakers, MEMA President Bill Long warned that automakers negatively affected by the virus could see global sales plummet.
“Such a decrease will impact the entire country and any comprehensive economic relief package must provide protection for our essential manufacturing operations,” Long said in the letter.
He asked lawmakers to provide temporary relief from certain tariffs through the remainder of 2020, saying doing so would give companies an immediate cash boost. The group also urged lawmakers to permit manufacturers to access emergency financial grants for distressed companies and a separate grant program to encourage the relocation of research, development and production work on advanced technologies to the U.S.
On Tuesday, automaker and dealer trade groups urged Trump to issue national guidance deeming auto repair facilities as essential businesses that can remain open even as most businesses shutter under orders from states and city officials.
John Bozzella, CEO of the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, told Automotive News on Thursday that the group is focusing on policies that "support the economy broadly," including the first two phases of economic stimulus and coronavirus relief as well as the massive $1 trillion proposed rescue plan to help individual Americans, the airline industry and other sectors.
The alliance represents automakers, suppliers and tech companies.
Bozzella did not say whether the automotive industry was included in the third stimulus package or other proposals that might emerge as a result of the pandemic.
Audrey LaForest of Automotive News contributed to this report