Trump says unnamed country plans to build, expand five U.S. auto plants

INDIANAPOLIS (Reuters) - President Donald Trump said on Wednesday an unnamed foreign leader told him at the United Nations last week that the country would soon announce plans to build or expand five automobile industry factories in the United States. "I just left the United Nations last week and I was told by one of the most powerful leaders of the world that they are going to be announcing in the not too distant future five major factories in the United States, between increasing and new, five," Trump said in a speech on tax reform in Indianapolis. He added the factories were in the automotive industry. Trump did not name the country or its leader. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Trump met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and 12 other leaders in New York at the U.N. General Assembly meeting last week, but did not meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel who was in Germany ahead of an election. Automakers in Japan and Germany have both announced investments in the United States this year, with companies coming under pressure from Trump’s bid to curb imports and hire more workers to build cars and trucks in the U.S. Investments to expand U.S. vehicle production capacity also reflect intensified competition for market share in the world’s most profitable vehicle market. In August, Toyota Motor Corp <7203.T> said it would build a $1.6 billion U.S. assembly plant with Mazda Motor Corp <7261.T>. Toyota also said this week it was investing nearly $375 million in five U.S. manufacturing plants to support U.S. production of hybrid powertrains. Last week, German automaker Daimler AG said it would spend $1 billion to expand its Mercedes Benz operations near Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to produce batteries and electric sport utility vehicles and create more than 600 jobs. Rival German luxury automaker BMW AG said in June it would expand its U.S. factory in South Carolina, adding 1,000 jobs. And last month, Volkswagen AG’s brand president Herbert Diess said the company expected to bring electric SUV production to the United States and could add production at its Tennessee plant. (Reporting by Steve Holland and David Shepardson; Writing by David Alexander; Editing by Clive McKeef)