WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that General Motors should pay back the money the government spent to keep it afloat as part of the auto industry bailout.

"If GM doesn't want to keep their jobs in the United States, they should pay back the $11.2 billion bailout that was funded by the American taxpayer," Trump, angry about the automaker's decision to close four plants in the United States, said on Twitter.

The U.S. government lost $11.2 billion on its bailout of General Motors, according to a 2014 government report. The government invested about $50 billion to bail out GM as a result of the company's 2009 bankruptcy, and at one time held a 61 percent equity stake in the Detroit-based automaker.

Treasury whittled down its GM stake through a series of stock sales starting in November 2010, with the remaining shares sold in December 2013 at a $11.2 billion loss.

"The goal of Treasury's investment in GM was never to make a profit, but to help save the American auto industry, and by any measure that effort was successful," Treasury Department spokesman Adam Hodge said at the time.

Trump, meanwhile, who has had a strained relationship with Justin Trudeau, found common ground with the Canadian prime minister Tuesday when they discussed GM's plans to stop production of six car models, leaving the future of five plants and some 14,000 employees in doubt.

"They underscored their concerns for the workers, for the communities and for the families that are affected by this decision," a senior Canadian official told reporters.

Trump threatened Tuesday to cut off all federal subsidies to General Motors because of its planned massive cutbacks in the U.S.

Many of the job cuts would affect the Midwest, the politically crucial region where the president promised a manufacturing rebirth.

"Very disappointed with General Motors and their CEO, Mary Barra, for closing plants in Ohio, Michigan and Maryland" while sparing plants in Mexico & China, Trump tweeted, adding: "The U.S. saved General Motors, and this is the THANKS we get!"

Trump's tweets followed a short time after National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said the White House's reaction to the automaker's announcement was "a tremendous amount of disappointment, maybe even spilling over into anger." Kudlow, who met with Barra on Monday, said Trump felt betrayed by GM.

"Look, we made this deal, we've worked with you along the way, we've done other things with mileage standards, for example, and other related regulations," Kudlow said, referencing the recently negotiated U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement. "We've done this to help you and I think his disappointment is, it seems like they kind of turned their back on him."

The White House rebuke appears to fly in the face of long-held Republican opposition to picking winners and losers in the marketplace. A day earlier, Trump issued a vague threat to GM warning it to preserve a key plant in the presidential bellwether state of Ohio, where the company has marked its Lordstown plant for closure.

"That's Ohio, and you better get back in there soon," he said.

It's not clear precisely what action against GM might be taken, or when, and there are questions about whether the president has the authority to act without congressional approval.

Buyers of electric vehicles made by GM and other automakers get federal tax credits of up to $7,500, helping to reduce the price as an incentive to get more of the zero-emissions vehicles on the road. But GM is on the cusp of reaching its subsidy limit.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said she did not have any additional information on the president's threat.

Trump has long promised to return manufacturing jobs to the United States and particularly the Midwest. At a rally near GM's Lordstown plant last summer, Trump told people not to sell their homes because the jobs are "all coming back."

In a statement Tuesday afternoon, GM tried to appease the Trump administration while at the same time justifying the decisions it announced Monday. "We appreciate the actions this administration has taken on behalf of industry to improve the overall competitiveness of U.S. manufacturing," the statement said.

Many of the workers who will lose jobs if the plants close could transfer to another GM factory where production is being increased, spokesman Patrick Morrissey said. For instance, GM plans to add hundreds of workers at its pickup truck assembly plant in Flint, Michigan, Morrissey said. Workers also will be added at an SUV factory in Arlington, Texas.

But those expansions aren't enough to accommodate all of the roughly 3,300 U.S. factory workers who could lose their jobs.

GM said it has invested more than $22 billion in U.S. operations since 2009, when it exited bankruptcy protection.

GM's attempt to close the factories still has to be negotiated with the United Auto Workers union, which has promised to fight them legally and in collective bargaining.

The factory announcements likely represented GM's opening bid in contract talks with the union that start next year, said Kristen Dziczek, vice president of labor and industry with the Center for Automotive Research, an industry think tank in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The factories slated for closure could get new products in exchange for items the company wants from the union, she said.

Keeping open a plant slated for closure is not without precedent for GM. In 2009, for instance, GM announced that it intended to close a huge assembly plant in Orion Township, Michigan, north of Detroit. But it later negotiated concessions from the union and reopened the plant to build the Chevrolet Sonic subcompact car. The factory is still in operation and now builds the Sonic and the Bolt electric car.

The reductions could amount to as much as 8 percent of GM's global workforce of 180,000 employees.
The restructuring reflects changing North American auto markets as manufacturers continue to shift away from cars toward SUVs and trucks. In October, almost 65 percent of new vehicles sold in the U.S. were trucks or SUVs. That figure was about 50 percent cars just five years ago.

Jerry Dias, president of the Canadian trade union UNIFOR, said Tuesday that GM's CEO had insulted the president of the United States and prime minister of Canada.

"If you are going to have a company that's going to show us their middle finger then I think our government should show them our middle finger as well," Dias said.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

Related Video:


Share This Photo X