Trump says GM 'better' add new facility in Ohio after cuts

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump demanded General Motors Co add a new product to replace a plant in Ohio that the company said it planned to close next year due to lagging small-car demand.

U.S. President Trump talks to reporters as he departs the White House for travel to Mississippi in Washington, U.S. November 26, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

The largest U.S. automaker said on Monday it would cut thousands from its North American workforce, slash production and eliminate some slow-selling car models. GM also plans to close an assembly plant and a transmission plant in Ohio, along with an assembly plant in Canada.

Trump told reporters he was not happy with GM’s decision to idle a plant in Lordstown, Ohio.

“I have no doubt that in the not too distant future, they’ll put something else. They better put something else in,” Trump said.

GM did not immediately comment on Trump’s remarks, but the company noted it has other facilities in Ohio including a transmission plant in Toledo and metal center in Parma.

Ohio lawmakers urged GM to reconsider. Republican Senator Rob Portman told GM chief executive Mary Barra on Monday that the company should bring a new product to the plant and he also urged GM “to at least reallocate some of the production and employees to the Toledo GM plant.”

In July 2017, Trump made a speech in Youngstown, Ohio near the GM plant and vowed jobs were “all coming back.” He told local residents: “Don’t move. Don’t sell your house.”

Representative Tim Ryan, an Ohio Democrat, seized on Trump’s 2017 remarks. “So far President Trump has been asleep at the switch and owes this community an explanation,” Ryan said Monday. “What we’ve gotten instead are broken promises and petty tweets.”

Trump separately told the Wall Street Journal on Monday that General Motors Co should stop making cars in China and make them in the United States instead.

Trump told reporters he told Barra he was unhappy with the announcement. He said the decision to halt sales of the Chevrolet Cruze had “nothing to do with tariffs” but was because of poor sales. “Get a car that is selling well and put it back in,” Trump said.

GM currently builds just one vehicle in China that it exports to the United States - the Buick Envision. The company has sold about 22,000 through September and in August sought an exclusion from 25 percent U.S. tariffs imposed on Chinese vehicle imports. The Trump administration has not yet ruled on the request.

GM sold nearly 2.7 million vehicles in China through September, nearly all of them built in China for the market.

Reporting by Jeff Mason and David Shepardson; Writing by Makini Brice; Editing by Susan Thomas and Nick Zieminski