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Poor Harald Krueger! The CEO of German auto giant BMW has been such an important contributor to American manufacturing and therefore to the whole U.S. economy! And that awful President Trump is determined to respond by imposing tariffs that could wreck the global free trade regime (as it’s called) responsible for the company’s valuable U.S. presence.

At least that’s the message yesterday’s Bloomberg article on the subject tried to send. Here’s what it really demonstrated: First, Krueger misled Bloomberg’s reporter.  Second, the author was too lazy or ignorant to do even the most basic research that could have solved this apparent mystery.

Not that his piece was devoid of interesting information – though most of it seems to come straight from BMW press releases. Yes, the company’s Spartanburg, South Carolina factory is its largest on the planet. And I’m happy to take BMW at its word that 70 percent of its U.S.-made vehicles are exported – although some way to confirm this figure independently would be awfully nice. Equally welcome would be a way to verify that the company is America’s largest net exporter.

But these very facts should raise the obvious question: If BMW is such a thoroughly American manufacturer, why is its CEO so worried about higher prices for imports? Luckily, in this case, it couldn’t be easier to find statistics to provide the answer – even though the Bloomberg reporter either didn’t know this or didn’t care.

All he needed to do was to visit the website of the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA — an agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation) and look through the information presented in its annual American Automobile Labeling Act reports. The title refers to a law requiring all companies that sell passenger vehicles in the United States to tell consumers the percentage of their products that are manufactured domestically.

The system isn’t perfect. Notably, it considers parts and components and other inputs supplied from Canada as “domestic.” But it’s a lot better than nothing. Nor is this mandate brand new. It’s been on the books since late 1992.

And the conclusions it points to couldn’t be clearer: BMW doesn’t so much manufacture vehicles in the United States as screw them together – which adds relatively little to the American economy. And the vast majority of the parts etc that get screwed together in South Carolina come from abroad – mainly Germany. That is, they’re imported.

Further, the company has made precious little progress localizing its supply chains in recent years – that is, adding more U.S. content. And the highest value, most technologically advanced parts of its vehicles, the engines and transmissions, are still 100 percent produced overseas – again, mainly in Germany.

So tariffs would make all these imported parts more expensive, and force BMW either to raise its own vehicle prices and risk lower sales, swallow the price increases and accept lower profits, or move more of its supply chain stateside from its home country. Here are the specifics:

In 2011 – the first year in which NHTSA used its current reporting system – BMW sold 26 models in the United States. Three of them had U.S. and Canadian content levels in the double-digits. (They were between 20 and 30 percent.) And all three were the models that were assembled in South Carolina.

This year’s numbers show 24 BMW models sold in America. The number assembled here rose – to four. And each of them had some more “domestic” content – between 30 and 35 percent.

Just as revealing – in 2011, none of the engines and transmissions in these BMW vehicles was American-made. And as of 2017, this number remained completely unchanged.

But although it’s encouraging that corporate dissemblers like BMW’s Krueger (and gullible, incompetent journalists) can be exposed with the auto content data, it’s discouraging that no such corporate analyses based on legally mandated figures are possible outside the automotive sector. So here’s hoping (once again) that the Trump administration and Congress move promptly to impose similar (or better) content and other reporting requirements throughout American manufacturing. Otherwise, the nation and its leaders will continue flying blind when it comes to trade and globalization – and much of the economy’s future.