Volvo CEO sees trade war making car shopping more like a crummy meal

Samuelsson, speaking at Volvo’s new U.S. plant about the impact of a trade war: “Shorter menu and higher prices — not a very good restaurant.” Photo credit: Bloomberg

CHARLESTON, S.C. — The Trump administration risks spoiling the experience American auto shoppers have in showrooms by limiting options and making vehicles more expensive, Volvo Car Group’s chief executive officer said.

The Chinese-owned Swedish manufacturer would have to limit which models it makes available in the U.S. and charge consumers more, CEO Hakan Samuelsson said in an interview from the company’s new plant opening near Charleston, South Carolina.

“I would have less models to choose from and they would cost more — that would be the consequence,” Samuelsson said in reference to the prospect that the U.S. may impose 25 percent tariffs on imported autos. “Shorter menu and higher prices — not a very good restaurant.”

Volvo’s factory will serve as a small hedge against new or higher trade barriers erected by President Donald Trump, whose pitched criticisms of how many cars are imported into the U.S. date back to his campaign. The company owned by China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co. still remains extremely vulnerable to American levies. LMC Automotive estimates that 87 percent of the vehicles Volvo sells in the U.S. next year will come from other countries.