The last time the Detroit 3 CEOs sat together at a table in Washington, they were pleading for a taxpayer-funded lifeline and were in no position to refuse the administration's demands. As a condition of the help, GM and Chrysler grudgingly committed to more small-car production and limits on executive pay.
This time, the industry feels no pressure to commit to anything it's not already doing.
After the meeting, the three CEOs -- either in written statements or short sound bites to the White House press pool -- said the usual niceties about how the meeting was positive and encouraging. But none offered specific plans to invest in new U.S. plants, and none backed off plans to invest in Mexico.
Simply put, they don't need to, at least until trade policies change.
CAR's Dziczek says 73 percent of North American investment by auto companies is already going to the U.S. But none of the Detroit 3 has opened a U.S. assembly plant since GM's Lansing Delta Township factory in Michigan came online in 2006.
U.S. demand for new vehicles is expected to stabilize and drop slightly from 2016's record level, and customers continue to shun small cars -- so much so that FCA is abandoning the segment altogether.
Mexico continues to be a draw because of its cheap labor, fast-growing supplier network and free-trade deals with a number of nations. LMC Automotive said in a recent study that Detroit 3 production south of the border will increase through 2020, while production in Canada and the U.S. will fall. The percentage of Mexico-built vehicles sold in the U.S. is predicted to rise, too. And LMC predicts that capacity investment in Mexico will grow at a much faster rate than in the U.S.
To underline the point, Ford CEO Mark Fields told CNBC last week: "I think we have the appropriate amount of assembly plants in the U.S."
Trump heard something else. In an interview with ABC after the meeting, he said the Detroit 3 are "gonna build plants back in the United States. ... We're gonna bring jobs back to America, like I promised on the campaign trail."