NEW YORK – With auto sales plateauing and the industry in no need of new capacity, can automakers meet President Trump’s demand to increase U.S. investment and create jobs?

Maybe, but it will be tricky, says Ford’s Joe Hinrichs, executive vice president-The Americas.

“It’s a challenging situation,” he tells the NADA/J.D. Power Automotive Forum here ahead of the New York International Auto Show. “We are in a 17 million (-unit) SAAR (seasonally adjusted annual rate) and not likely to go up to 19. So we have to be judicious in our spending and our capital. We’re very focused on (maximizing) capacity utilization.”

But he says there are ways the industry could invest besides adding new vehicle-assembly capacity.

“A lot can be done with the supply base and R&D work,” Hinrichs says. “So if the environment is right, there’s no reason we can’t see more auto-industry investment,” and tax reform and infrastructure investment can help with that.

The Ford exec welcomes NAFTA reforms, but says this is an area where the Trump Admin. will have to tread carefully.

“The key thing to remember is, whatever happens with NAFTA, it needs to facilitate the competitiveness of the region and allow North American automakers to prosper and bring some of that investment home.”

dzoia@wardsauto.com @DavidZoia