GM CEO Mary Barra’s meeting with Trump comes at a pivotal time for automaker

President Donald Trump delivers remarks at American Center for Mobility in Ypsilanti, Michigan with General Motors CEO Mary Barra and other auto industry executives on March 15, 2017. 

Nicolas Kamm | AFP | Getty Images

A Thursday meeting between President Donald Trump and General Motors CEO and Chairman Mary Barra at the White House comes at a critical time for the automaker’s business operations and automotive industry.

In addition to facing ongoing concerns regarding trade, China and national fuel economy regulations, the Detroit carmaker was selected Tuesday as the lead company over Ford Motor and Fiat Chrysler to negotiate new labor contracts with the United Auto Workers union.

All four of those topics are expected to be among the “wide ranging” discussions during the 1:45 p.m. meeting in the Oval Office, according to two people briefed on the meeting. Expected attendees include Barra, Trump, members of GM’s policy team and Trump’s top economic advisor Larry Kudlow, according to a White House official and a person briefed on the meeting.

GM declined to disclose specifics of the private meeting, citing “executives meet with policy makers on a regular basis.” The White House confirmed the sit-down after Reuters reported the meeting Wednesday night.

Since Trump was elected to office in 2016, GM and other automakers have routinely briefed him and his administration on their operations — everything from policies to major investment announcements.

Fine line

Automakers, specifically GM, have walked a fine line when it comes to briefing the president. He’s often criticized or commended automakers’ decisions on Twitter — sometimes even before the companies have a chance to announce their own news.

Less than a week ago, Trump attacked GM for its production facilities in China and questioned whether the automaker should move the operations to the U.S.

Trump, in a tweet, said GM, “once the Giant of Detroit, is now one of the smallest auto manufacturers there. They moved major plants to China, BEFORE I CAME INTO OFFICE. This was done despite the saving help given them by the USA. Now they should start moving back to America again?”

Many of the claims in the tweet against the Detroit automaker were misleading or inaccurate, according to industry data and officials. It came a day after Bloomberg News reported GM’s 46,000 unionized workforce in the U.S. trails Ford by about 9,000 and Fiat Chrysler by roughly 1,200.


Trump last month also called out the automakers, specifically Ford, for not supporting his efforts to roll back Obama-era fuel efficiency rules for new vehicles. He called auto executives “foolish,” said the founders of Ford and GM are “rolling over” at the “weakness of current car company executives.”

The attacks came after Ford, Honda, BMW and Volkswagen reached a voluntary agreement last month with California on fuel economy standards. The deal incorporated more stringent emissions rules adopted by former President Barack Obama that Trump is intent on easing.

While many automakers have supported reevaluating the rules to address current market conditions of lower gas prices, all-electric vehicles and increased sales of trucks and SUVs, none of the major automakers support Trump’s plan to roll back Obama-era standards.

The administration, in the meantime, is preparing a plan to do just that. Two U.S. agencies are writing new rules that would revoke California’s authority to set its own emissions standards and preempt states from setting their own vehicle rules, Reuters reported Thursday, citing two people briefed on the matter.

— CNBC’s Eamon Javers contributed to this report.

Article Courtesy of CNBC

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