Canada could face product consolidation and plant closures if the United States follows through on a 25 per cent tariff on imported vehicles, according to Joe McCabe, CEO of AutoForecast Solutions.
He also speculated that General Motors would likely shutter its assembly plant in Oshawa in 2020.
"There's not a chance we could put up trade barriers and have GM put in another investment for a new platform," he said. The automaker does final assembly of the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups there and builds the Cadillac XTS and Chevrolet Impala there.
McCabe made the comments speaking Tuesday at the Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City, Mich.
He also suggested GM could alter what comes out of its plant in Lordstown, Ohio, which currently builds the Chevrolet Cruze.
He said the automaker could replace the slow-selling car and start building utilities currently made in Mexico.
McCabe noted 10 brands that each import more than 50,000 vehicles annually will be most affected by the Trump administration's proposed tariffs on imported vehicles.
He said Nissan, Toyota, Mazda, Subaru, Hyundai, Jeep, Kia, Buick, Honda and Mercedes all stand to lose if the Trump White House adds a tax on imported vehicles.
Those brands alone would account for a drop in U.S. sales of about 1.8 million units, he said.
"Automotive moves at a glacial speed," he said of the prospects of moving imported nameplates into local production. "We can't just all of a sudden build a plant out of thin air. It's not a video game."
The tariff talks come as automakers increasingly use global platforms and common parts to save money and reduce complexity. McCabe said nearly half of all vehicles built by 2025 will be on a shared platform, and that 43 per cent of vehicles built outside of North America share underpinnings in markets around the world.
"Globalization is here to stay," he said. "It's not going to change regardless of trade barriers."