Amid the ongoing trade tensions, the White House recently issued a proclamation with the stunning conclusion that Toyota and other international automaker contributions to the economy have reduced the market share of "American-owned" companies and thereby are a national security threat.
I can say without hesitation that Toyota's 1,700 skilled team members at its West Virginia engine plant are not a national security threat. On the contrary, they are an asset. Our team members have contributed to the economy of this great state for over 22 years. They not only work here, they also raise their families and give back to their local community through regular acts of service and charitable contributions.
The administration has given trade representatives until Nov. 14th to negotiate trade agreements with certain countries, including Japan. If an agreement is not reached within that time, the president will be able to impose tariffs on imported autos and automotive parts.
The disturbing message sent to Toyota's American workforce is that they are neither appreciated nor valued. Nothing could be further from the truth. When I step onto the plant floor and look into the eyes of the Americans who make nearly one million engines and transmissions a year, I'm filled with pride and appreciation for all they do for our company, community and country.
To justify support for vehicle import tariffs, the administration claims that a "lag in R&D expenditures by American-owned producers" is weakening innovation and can be "improved by reducing imports."
Far from weakening innovation, Toyota has been a leader in R&D through open-sourcing our patents in critical technologies such as fuel cells and hybrid electrification as well as through continuous collaboration on new technology.
Toyota is in the midst of a $13 billion investment in the U.S. over a five-year period, and West Virginia has been the recipient of a significant part of that.
Our West Virginia-built engines and transmissions are among the most American-built components on the market today - they are installed on many of Toyota's exports to 32 countries around the world. We are very proud that over 36 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles are still on U.S. roads today, many of which have our engines and transmissions under the hood.
Since coming to West Virginia in the late '90s, Toyota has given more than $10 million in charitable contributions to worthy causes.
Overall, Toyota has established deep roots in the U.S. Between our R&D centers, 10 manufacturing plants, 1,500 dealers, extensive supply chain and other operations, we directly and indirectly employ over 475,000 people.
History has shown that artificial restraints - like a tariff - on imported vehicles and parts would stifle investment and jobs, reduce consumer choice and impact all automakers since parts used in manufacturing are sourced from around the globe. If import tariffs - which are really just a tax on consumers - are imposed, consumers will pay more and have fewer vehicle choices.
We remain hopeful that the upcoming negotiations on trade can be resolved quickly and yield what is best for American consumers, workers and the auto industry.
As one of the biggest manufacturers in the Mountain State, our commitment to its future should never be in doubt or seen as a threat. It will always be rock solid.
Leah Curry is president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing West Virginia, which has a factory in Putnam County.