Did Trump’s admin forget about classic cars when crafting tariffs?

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Is it possible that Donald Trump's administration simply forgot about classic cars when crafting possible tariffs on imported vehicles and parts? | Pixabay photo
Is it possible that Donald Trump's administration simply forgot about classic cars when crafting possible tariffs on imported vehicles and parts? | Pixabay photo

Much has been made about President Donald Trump’s potential move to slap tariffs as high as 25 percent on all imported vehicles and car parts, but his administration may have simply forgotten about the classic car market.

Such a gaffe would greatly affect — and possibly cripple — the $180 billion industry, but that was the impression of Mark Hyman, a vintage car dealer who testified before the Commerce Department last week.

“I was the only guy who represented the vintage car industry, which surprised me because, if this happens, it will affect all of us,” he said. “The takeaway from it was I’m certain that the representatives of the Commerce Department never thought about us as a group – the vintage car hobby and industry.”

A list of panel participants showed, while several classic-related industries testified, Hyman was the sole representative who owned a vintage dealership.

Hyman took part in one of several panels where Commerce Department officials collected industry feedback but it seemed, at least to him, that the broad tariffs were intended to hit foreign carmakers, not businesses like his.

“I really think they listened to me and I don’t think that it ever dawned on them that this kind of legislation or tariff would affect our industry,” he said, adding that he understood why officials may have let the multibillion-dollar collector car industry fall to the wayside.

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“It really is very small in comparison to the industries that they’re targeting,” he said.

To implement the tariffs, Trump’s administration would have to declare imported cars and parts as a threat to national security under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has said automobiles brought from overseas are a threat.

“There is evidence suggesting that, for decades, imports from abroad have eroded our domestic auto industry,” he said in May. “The Department of Commerce will conduct a thorough, fair, and transparent investigation into whether such imports are weakening our internal economy and may impair the national security.” 

Hyman said that doesn’t make sense, at least for classic cars.

“I feel very strongly that importing vintage cars to the United States is not a threat and that is why I wanted to make them aware of it,” he said.

The possible oversight gets even more glaring when considering the president has shown an affinity for classic cars, some of which have been imports.

When asked if the Trump administration had considered the impact the tariffs would have on the vintage car market, the Commerce Department’s public information office responded with several links about the hearings, none of which mentioned classic cars.

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A follow up email was not returned by publication.

For the most part, the reaction to the tariffs has been negative. A public comment session prior to the panels garnered more than 2,300 comments, a majority of which opposed the measure.

However, union leaders from United Automobile Workers and the AFL-CIO have expressed support for the tariffs. They argued that hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost since 2000, primarily because of industry shifts to production overseas.

“We believe a comprehensive investigation into the impact of the loss of auto manufacturing and its consequences for our national security and economic well-being is long overdue,” Jennifer Kelly, director of research for the UAW, said during the hearings.

Whether it was a mistake or not, Hyman said the tariffs could pose a significant problem to the classic car market.

“The market for very, very valuable cars is an international market so, by imposing tariffs, it has the potential to change the face of the high-end, vintage car market and that’s my big concern,” he said.

But Hyman was worried about more than American tariffs. He said there was a good chance other countries could retaliate with tariffs of their own, which could endanger his and other vintage cars and parts companies.

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“I’ve done deals in Europe where I’ve bought six, eight, 10 cars at one time,” he said. “We always have cars on a ship coming to the U.S. and we always have cars leaving our place going somewhere else in the world. It’s a big part of our business.”

A decision from the Commerce Department was expected to take months, but Hyman said he had plans to head back to Washington, D.C. to ask for an exception for classics should the tariffs be put in place.

“Please grant an extension for the vintage car and the vintage car part industries because in no way, shape or form are (they) a threat to national security,” he said.

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Carter Nacke is a graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. He began his career at KTAR News 92.3 FM in Phoenix, the largest news radio station in Arizona, where he specialized in breaking news and politics. A burgeoning interest in classic cars took him to the Journal in 2018. He's still on the hunt for his dad's old 1969 Camaro.

20 COMMENTS

  1. I’m an American Classic car owner (no European or other foreign so called classics in my yard) American ONLY. I am sick of seeing made in China or Taiwan or Mexico on my replacement parts and having to put that crap on my American Muscle. They should be made in America ONLY. These tariffs were something that needed done a long time ago. Sorry. GO TRUMP!!

    • Eric, what you are saying is all well and fine, but i know of several repro parts that would have never been repopped if those outside suppliers weren’t available, and never mind the cost! One of the reasons younger people are not getting into the old car hobby is high cost. Your belief would just insure a shrinking hobby participation , much worse then even now.

    • It’s called trade for a reason because that’s what countries do. It’s pretty obvious that if we don’t buy the world’s products, they won’t buy ours which is net sum zero. There’s a reason why Americans have bought foreign because they were cheaper and in a lot of cases better built so it’s folly to say “they” are the problem when we were the ones buying their product. Nobody forced anyone to buy foreign but for so many industries that’s what has happened. Are we as hobbyists prepared to pay made in America prices that are so high that a 25% tariff is needed for them to be competitive? It’s a difficult choice but we live in a global economy and have to be competitive to survive. That’s economics not politics. I’ve been a gear head for 70 years and I worry that we’re pricing our hobby into oblivion. I don’t see this as a solution frankly.

    • I agree with you Erich, the first problem is that you always have to worry that the parts FIT PROPERLY. It’s just a shame that The USA cannot make auto parts here.

    • Just last week I spent/wasted an hour with a Canadian (Canadian! Our neighbors!) supplier because the tariffs on steel tubing are such that if, like he does, you use steel from different sources and aluminum from different sources you now have to re-price those items in light of the tariffs. And believe me, I am a low-budget gearhead retired on a fixed income. The problem is I am also a trained economist and an academic historian and I can tell you that trade wars are a bad idea, seldom work in the long term and rarely create the outcome desired. Look it up. As for Erich complaining about Third World repro parts going on American muscle cars, buddy, a lot of the raw materials that were in the OEM parts came from those same countries. It’s not their fault that they’re willing to do small-batch parts for niche hobbies like ours. Complain to the US speed parts companies, not the current able suppliers. And good luck with that.

    • just wait. you don’t like china built stuff? 99.9 % of all auto parts are made in china or Taiwan. a Fram oil filter is 4.99 at Wal-Mart because it isn’t made in America where labor cost are huge.be pre paired to pay huge money for that American made part. Think of the job losses in the USA and Globally for that matter

  2. Trump is to stupid to realise he’s an idiot, when he opens his mouth shit pours out ,he is the type of goose that will start a war, because his ego is bigger than his brain

    • Looks to me like Russ missed the point made by Erich. Apparently it was over his head. Made in America has nothing to do with Russ’ Trump bashing tirade.

    • Just like a never Trump fan or whatever you are,,, You folks always manage to mix Politics in where it is Not warranted however. You consistently manage to talk crap.. Get your story and facts straight….

    • I to have several cars and have never in the past or now have had trouble getting parts, and guess what just about all of them say made in America. I am not sure what this articular by Carter Nacke is trying to say, but it sounds like he is trying to scare everyone and it sure sounds like he has no idea what a "tariff" is and Russ Wiliams is just a fowl mouth Democrat so excuse him. I am from Wisconsin and we just had the third largest car show in the world last week and you want to talk about "parts"? dam it was hard to see all of them and what is online through people there is amazing.

  3. Do you think you could please just talk about cars without trying to find a desperate way of working in your distaste for President Trump? It’s getting tiresome & everyone is aware of the way you try to influence readers in this way!

    • What’s your proposal if 25% is too high for hobby cars and classic parts? Last I checked the tariff tax is constitutionally ok, federal income tax questionable. I think it’s about the same % (25%g) within a certain people’s income tax do not sure that’s a viable argument. I also think this taxes rich people, not poor. Isn’t that also lining up with the liberal agenda? Trump will never win depending on how you spin it. I vote for our country. Not tax the hard workers Leah ally, working in our country. How do we stimulate our industry here?

  4. The conversation here needs to be about preserving and growing our hobbiest industry, which we love with a passion, while hopefully in the long run creating manufacturing here in the USA for the parts we all need or want. Those not involved in our hobby, at least I’ve found, believe we’re all wealthy folks with high levels of disposable income, and therefore the tariffs won’t really impact us. From the standpoint of lawmakers who make six figure incomes at minimum, paying a bit extra for that vintage Ferrari to ship over from whatever European country, shouldn’t be a burden. But for the majority of us, Joe public, who scrimp and save to slowly restore a $15,000 60’s Pontiac, the tariffs will really significantly impact us. I’m all for having the parts made in America, and agree with Erich that I’m tired of seeing “Made in XXXXXXX” whatever other country instead. But there has to be a plan in place to create the parts manufacturing industry here in the USA, in a way that doesn’t triple the price, before applying the new tariffs. Startup costs, regulations, and so much more has to be addressed, minimized, and streamlined to create it. I think the conversation and action needs to start there.

    • I think that we, the American consumer, have been sold down the proverbial path. We had no input as to whether we wanted our parts manufactured offshore, especially when we pay the same price or more for an inferior item while the U S corporations benefits by lowering the cost of manufacture. Do they pass the saving on – no way. Now we get to pay, pay and pay more – wow, life is great!

  5. Trump has put the tariffs on imports in order to get a better deal for American exports. All of these countries have higher tariffs on American goods imported to their countries. Which limits the sale of our goods in their countries. As a result we have lost manufacturing jobs in our country. EU has a tariff on American made automobiles of 25%, whereas the tariff on European cars coming into the States is 5%. What Trump wants is No tariffs!!

  6. It is really bothersome that politics are even brought into this forum. It’s a very sensitive subject and should be steared well clear of. If you have an opinion on it and how this import/export business should be handled, then bring it up to your representatives who could actually do something about it. I really don’t want to hear how you think the political process effects anything….not the place for it!

    • Tarrifs are a great idea for supporting local industry (and keeping locals employed) as long as there’s a local industry to protect. If nobody in USA is making repro parts, your choice is buy the imported parts (with or without tarrifs) or spend all your spare time trying to find second hand ones. You pays your money and you takes your choice.
      Tarrifs should not apply if there is no local industry to protect or if the goods are second hand – such as classic cars.

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