Foreign Carmakers Borrow From Reagan for TV Ad Targeting Trump

  • Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, VW and others join forces in campaign
  • Ad appears on Fox and Friends, which Trump is known to watch

A worker reaches for tools while working on metal truck frames on the assembly line at the Toyota Motor Corp. manufacturing facility in San Antonio, Texas.

Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg

When he switches on his television in the morning, President Donald Trump could see a new side of the foreign automakers he has lashed out against.

Toyota Motor Corp., Volkswagen AG and other foreign carmakers joined forces for a commercial touting their American-made vehicles. The spot, with gauzy images from the U.S. factories of those overseas companies, will run for several weeks on shows like MSNBC’s "Morning Joe" and Fox News’ "Fox and Friends." Trump is known as a voracious consumer of cable news, and has reacted on Twitter to both of those shows.

"We think it’s really important that policymakers understand what the auto industry looks like today," said John Bozzella, chief executive of the Association of Global Automakers, a Washington-based trade group that represents most of the automakers behind the campaign.

The president has been a warm host to Detroit’s carmakers and pledged to cut burdensome regulations he’s said stifles their growth. Foreign automakers, however, have been targets of his criticism.

Trump railed against a planned Toyota factory in Mexico. And in a meeting with European Union leaders last month, Trump said Germany was “very bad” for flooding the U.S. with cars. Germany posted a record trade surplus in 2016 and cars were indeed a big reason.

The campaign seeks to bring some attention to the hefty U.S. presence foreign automakers, which manufacture nearly half of all vehicles produced in the U.S. and have invested some $75 billion in the U.S. to date, Bozzella said.

The ad itself is a remake of "Prouder, Stronger, Better," a 1984 commercial for Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaign that posited it was “morning again in America.” The automakers borrowed the political ad’s optimistic tone, imagery and even the melody from its soundtrack.

"It’s morning again for auto manufacturing in America, and thanks to trade and open markets, our auto industry is stronger, prouder and better than ever before," a narrator voices over images of a Honda Motor Co. assembly line and workers raising an American flag. "Why would we ever want to return to a time of less competition and less choice for consumers?"

U.S. vehicles, plants and workers of Hyundai Motor Co., Kia Motors Corp. and Nissan Motor Co. also appear in the advertisements.

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