Donald Trump’s new campaign mantra: Car choice

Former President Donald Trump said Wednesday the auto industry will be “dead” if workers don’t back his 2024 presidential bid, positioning himself as a champion of car choice in the latest jockeying over the month-long autoworkers strike.

Mr. Trump, the GOP front-runner for president, vowed to triple the number of jobs in the sector that is centered in Michigan, a key election prize that offers 15 electoral votes.

“The Auto Industry is DEAD if they don’t VOTE FOR TRUMP,” Mr. Trump said on Truth Social. “I will triple their jobs within two years, immediately authorizing CHOICE OF PROPULSION IN ALL CARS (and Trucks!). Car Choice, School Choice!”

Union members walked off the job at plants owned by the Big Three — General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis — on Sept. 15 to demand better pay, upending a key sector of the economy. Stellantis is an Italian–American conglomerate that owns Fiat, Chrysler, Dodge, RAM, Jeep, Peugeot, Citroen and Alfa Romeo.

President Biden in September joined members of the United Auto Workers union on the picket line in an unprecedented show of support for workers striking workers. His appearance at a General Motors plant in suburban Detroit marked the first time a sitting president has ever walked a picket line in solidarity with striking workers.

“You made a lot of sacrifices, gave up a lot, when the companies were in trouble. But now they are doing incredibly well and guess what — you should be doing incredibly well too,” Mr. Biden told the workers. “You deserve a significant raise and other benefits. Let’s get back what we lost.”

Yet Mr. Trump says strife in the auto industry can be tied to Mr. Biden’s proposed rule to limit the greenhouse gases that cars emit, a stance that shifts the blame to his Democratic rival.

The right to consumer choice is a frequent theme for Mr. Trump. He rails against energy-saving regulations at his rallies, saying they’ve resulted in weak showers and lightbulbs, and his allusion to school choice refers to longstanding efforts to let parents opt their kids out of failing public schools.

Mr. Trump says the expense of the shift from internal combustion engines to electric vehicles will doom the U.S. car industry unless there is more wiggle room.

“Under the Biden Administration, there will be no such thing as a U.S. Autoworker within 3 years. All cars and trucks will be made in China, and other foreign lands!” he wrote.

Mr. Trump weighed in two days after Ford Motor Co. Executive Chairman Bill Ford delivered a rare speech calling on autoworkers to end the strike. Mr. Ford said high labor costs could limit spending on developing new vehicles and investing in factories.

“It’s the absolute lifeblood of our company. And if we lose it, we will lose to the competition. America loses. Many jobs will be lost,” said the great-grandson of company founder Henry Ford.

UAW President Shawn Fain said that Bill Ford knows he can settle the strike by calling Ford CEO Jim Farley and telling him “to stop playing games and get a deal done.”

He threatened to strike and close Ford’s Rouge truck complex in Dearborn. 

“It’s not the UAW and Ford against foreign automakers. It’s autoworkers everywhere against corporate greed,” Mr. Fain said.

• Jeff Mordock contributed to this report, which is based in part on wire reports.

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