President Trump is advancing his America First approach to international trade with one eye on boosting support among auto workers

President Trump is advancing his 'America First' approach to international trade with one eye on boosting support among auto workers

The US Trump administration is considering a plan that would impose new tariffs - as high as 25% - on vehicles imported to the US on national security grounds.

President Trump already has used the Section 232 legal provision to provide justification for tariffs on imported steel and aluminium. But he is now considering starting a probe of imported cars under the same law.

Trump said the US car industry was "critical to our strength as a nation" and ordered the Department of Commerce to investigate. The probe rests on decades-old legislation which lets the president restrict imports if they threaten national security.

Hefty tariffs on imported cars would likely face considerable opposition from manufacturers - such as BMW and Mercedes - with manufacturing plants in the US, as well as US dealers who sell imported brands.

The president tweeted earlier on Wednesday about 'big news' for the country's autoworkers. He has also previously threatened to impose tariffs on cars imported from the EU.

Trump has repeatedly criticised the large trade imbalance on vehicles between the US and the EU. In March, he threatened in a tweet to "simply apply a tax on their cars which freely pour into the US".

The US currently imposes a 2.5% tariff on cars assembled in Europe and a 25% tariff on European-built vans and pickup trucks. The EU imposes a 10% tariff on new cars imported to the trade bloc territory, including the US.

BMW stresses contribution to US economy

BMW has stressed its importance to the US economy in recent months and pointed out it the largest exporter of US made vehicles, by value.

The automaker exported 272,346 BMW X models from its Spartanburg plant in South Carolina.

Around 87% of these SUVs were exported through the Port of Charleston with an export value of approximately US$8.76bn, according to data from the US Department of Commerce. This confirmed the plant as the leading US automotive exporter by value, according to BMW.