Local auto experts discuss impact of steel tariff

The president has said he would provide temporary exemptions for Canada and Mexico. Trump has said that the U.S. will be very fair but very flexible and protect the American worker.

The proposed tariff's come at a time when the auto industry is starting to see sales numbers drop. Car makers sold 17.1 million units last year, the first decline in seven years.

Now there's concern the tariff's could hurt sales even more.

It's still pretty unclear what the Trump administration will do. There are many unanswered questions like, will there be exceptions to certain countries or material types. Industry leaders say because of how versatile and flexible the auto industry is, it will adapt to whatever will happen.

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The steel and aluminum tariff was a big conversation starter at the Auto Symposium at Grand Valley State University.

"From what we've heard, it's a 25 percent tariff on steel and 10 percent on aluminum but again that's really all we know about right now," auto analyst for IHS Markit Mike Wall said.

Wall doesn't think it'll be that harsh.

"My expectation is that I think it will end up being something less than what we're hearing about, there's going to be offsets," Wall said.

He said the automotive industry is flexible.

"There is an ability to be nimble from along those lines as well to be able to adjust and adapt, it doesn't mean that it's going to be cost free or pain free"

Still, there is plenty of uncertainty surround the tariff.

"The increase on the cost on imported steel and imported aluminum could have a very significant cost impact on a number of suppliers and manufacturers," Plante Moran partner Daron Gifford said.

Gifford works closely with automotive suppliers here in West Michigan.

"It's not easy to shift your production buy from an imported product, like steel or aluminum, to a domestic product immediately," Gifford said.

Since the announcement of the tariff, Gifford has been telling all of his clients to prepare.

"What's really going to be the impact on the business of some of these kinds of things, start doing some of that brainstorming now rather than just wait, we'll have to see but it's good to know what your alternatives might be," Gifford said.

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The president has said he would provide temporary exemptions for Canada and Mexico. Trump has said that the U.S. will be very fair but very flexible and protect the American worker.

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