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Toyota president: Automaker will not leave US despite trade tensions

The head of Toyota Motor Corp. said the Japanese automaker will stay in the U.S. regardless of the trade policies that could be implemented by President Donald Trump's administration.

Toyota President Akio Toyoda spoke during an Economic Club of Washington, D.C., event on March 15 that was moderated by David Rubenstein, co-founder of private equity investment company the Carlyle Group.

When asked if cars made in Japan were a threat to national security, Toyoda said he does not "know why they call it a national security threat."

"That really makes me feel sad," Toyoda said, referring to the U.S. Commerce Department's Section 232 investigation into the imports of cars and auto parts on the basis of national security, which could result in tariffs. "I hope that this kind of conversation can go away."

Toyoda noted that 50% of Toyota vehicles sold in the U.S. are made in the U.S. and that the Japanese automaker will continue to sell cars in the country no matter what happens with trade and tariff policies.

"Regardless of the direction we go, we will never leave the United States," Toyoda said. "We will stay here."

On March 14, Toyota announced that it was increasing its U.S. investment to $13 billion, up from a $10 billion pledge in 2017. The extra investment will add more production and jobs to five plants in the U.S.

Toyota Motor North America CEO Jim Lentz told reporters after the event that the company is eager to learn the findings of the investigation, which was submitted to Trump on Feb. 18. The findings have not been publicly released yet.

"It's going to impact the overall industry," Lentz said, adding that he believes the administration will "do what's best for the American people and the American economy."

"If they look at the impact it would have — the impact on reduced sales, reduced production and reduced employment — I'm confident they're going to make the right decisions," the CEO said.

Lentz said Toyoda visits the U.S. about once a quarter and has not been in Washington for a while but is not meeting with members of the administration during this visit.