FRANKFURT (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump this week warned EU policymakers that the United States would impose tariffs on European car imports if a trade deal could not be reached.
Washington has said a 25 percent tariff on cars sourced from the European Union could be imposed on national security grounds, a step that European policymakers have called unwarranted.
German carmakers Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW, which have large plants in the United States, could be among the hardest hit.
The United States bought 27.2 billion euros’ ($31 billion) worth of German vehicles and components last year, making it the largest export market for the German auto industry, according to statistics released by Berlin’s Federal Statistics office this week.
Together the Germans, including VW, Porsche, Mercedes-Benz BMW and Audi, sold 1.34 million cars and vans in the United States last year, according to German auto industry association VDA.
German companies built 750,000 luxury cars at U.S. plants, of which 44 percent were sold locally and the rest exported overseas, including 95,000 cars to China.
Around 690,000 German vehicles sold in the United States last year were imported from factories within the European Union, of which 470,000 came from German plants, VDA said.
For Daimler-owned Mercedes-Benz, the United States is the second most important sales market globally, behind China. Around 316,000 Mercedes-Benz vehicles were sold in the United States in 2018, or around 14 percent of the brand’s global sales. Parent company Daimler declined to comment on how many cars were exported from Europe to the United States.
Daimler’s U.S. factory in Tuscaloosa, Alabama has a production capacity of 300,000 vehicles and employs 3,700 people. It makes the GLE, GLE Coupe and GLS models.
The Munich-based carmaker which owns the BMW, Mini and Rolls-Royce brands, said it sold 355,000 cars in the United States last year and exported 102,354 cars from its plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina, to Europe. The BMW brand on its own sold 311,014 cars.
Around 70 percent of the total production in Spartanburg, which builds BMW X3, X4, X5 and X6 vehicles, is exported outside of the United States, including 48,537 cars to China, 29,205 to Germany and 16,864 to the United Kingdom.
Volkswagen Group, which also owns the Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini and Porsche brands, delivered 638,300 cars in the United States in 2018.
The multi-brand group imported 301,200 VW and Audi cars from Mexico to the U.S. and a further 236,000 cars from Europe.
VW brand sold 354,064 cars in the U.S. last year of which 101,100 were built locally at a VW plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
VW’s premium brand Audi sold 223,000 cars in the United States last year, of which 153,000 were imported from Europe and around 70,000 Audi Q5 sports utility vehicles from Mexico.
VW’s other sportscar brand Porsche sold 57,000 cars in the United States. Neither Audi nor Porsche has a factory in the U.S.
Analysts at Evercore ISI estimate that VW Group faces a 2.549 billion euro impact if the United States goes ahead and imposes a 25 percent tariff on imports from the EU. Daimler, which owns Mercedes-Benz and Smart, faces a 2 billion euro tariff hit while BMW, which owns Mini and Rolls-Royce, will take a 1.7 billion euro blow, Evercore said.
Reporting by Ilona Wissenbach, Jan Schwartz, Edward Taylor; Editing by Susan Fenton