Ask me who I am and I will reply, “Mary Buchzeiger, CEO of a $40 million auto supplier in Metro Detroit, employer of 40-plus, and mother of three.” Ask me where I live, and I might joke “Delta 9A.”
I have spent so much time on the road building Lucerne into the international business it is today – away from my kids and my husband – that my forwarding address might as well be an aisle seat on a plane bound for China or Europe. I’ve sacrificed so much over the years, put in so much hustle and grind to grow an economic powerhouse in the heart of Oakland County.
Now it’s all in jeopardy.
The tariffs proposed by President Trump would cripple my business and many like it in the Midwest. I write this not as a critic of the president, but as a loyal Republican.
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The beating heart of what often is called “Trump Country” would be stifled by the unintended consequences of these tariffs. I’m sorry if that sounds harsh, but it’s true. I’m fighting for the life of my company and for the livelihood of my employees – and I’m fighting to protect an intricate auto supply chain that creates hundreds of thousands U.S. jobs.
I agree with the president. He’s right. The trade deficit needs to be tamed. But, please, not this way – not on the backs of my employees and the future of our growing business.
Lucerne is a supplier of cast, forged and stamped components and assemblies to the automotive and heavy truck industries. In 2008, when I took over the business, our sales were under $2 million. In just ten years, we’ve grown sales to over $35 million, and with current contracts, will be well over $50 million next year.
Our workforce is more than 40 people with plans to expand by over 25 percent in the coming year. That is, unless Washington gets in my way.
Among several other parts, we produce hinges for the Jeep Wrangler. We have 28 parts on every four-door vehicle rolling off the assembly line in Toledo. This business amounts to roughly $30 million of annual revenue.
We won this contract because Lucerne is one of the only companies in the world that produces Class-A forgings. Our process combines the strength of forged steel and aluminum and the subtlety of fine art to produce polished-perfect hinges for the Wrangler’s outer body.
We’re damn proud of this work.
It starts overseas – we have seven long-term, strategic manufacturing partners where these hinges are manufactured. They are then shipped to my plant in Auburn Hills, inspected and repackaged and then sent to another plant located in Milan, Michigan, where they are assembled before being shipped to the Jeep assembly plant in Toledo.
That’s a supply chain: Thousands of American jobs.
Billions of American dollars.
For some strange and destructive reason, Lucerne is being targeted by the Trump administration. According to HTS subheading 83021030 “iron or steel, aluminum or zinc hinges designed for motor vehicles” could now be subject to an additional 25 percent duty. If that happens, my plants in Asia will pass that cost to me. I will attempt to pass the increased costs on to my customer, but they will then seek other suppliers – overseas - because there is no capacity here in the US to produce these parts.
I can’t swallow these costs. I will essentially be forced out of business.
This week, I’ll be in Washington to participate in a public hearing on the tariffs. I’ll ask for an exclusion of HTS 83021030.
I’m angry, frustrated and scared.
Scared that my president is about to make a terrible mistake.
Scared for my employees, who love their jobs, who make good money and get their tuitions paid, should they choose to further their schooling.
Scared for my community and my country, which is about to be blindsided by a bad policy forged of best intentions.
Let me address the elephant in the room. Yes, these products produced by Lucerne are manufactured in Asia. And, frankly, I’m proud of that. I’m proud of the partnerships forged in years of travel to build a Michigan based business and take it global.
Would I like to move manufacturing back to the United States? Absolutely. As a matter of fact, since 2015, we’ve been searching for a U.S. solution. We have yet to find a manufacturing facility here that has the capacity to take on even one of the parts that we make.
Because of this, prior to these proposed tariffs being announced, I started to explore opening my own forging plant in mid-Michigan. But it takes time to reverse economic trends – much more time than allowed under the administration’s trade strategy.
And I certainly won’t be able to forge forward US expansion plans if I’m forced to hang an “out of business” sign on my front door.