The United Auto Workers has had preliminary private discussions with some nonunion automakers about organizing U.S. plants as it aims to expand to Asian and European companies, UAW President Bob King said on Wednesday.

King declined to name the companies the UAW has talked to under its latest organizing plan that includes a plea to companies to agree to trust principles for bargaining with the union.

We are in some preliminary discussions which we agreed to keep confidential so we will do that, King told reporters at the Automotive News World Congress that is held on the sidelines of the Detroit auto show.

These are all really good companies, King said. We just have to convince them that we are not the evil empire that they thought we were at one point.

The UAW said in December that it would launch a campaign to organize the U.S. manufacturing plants for Asian and German automakers. The union has sought unsuccessfully to organize plants for the non-U.S. manufacturers since the 1990s.

Toyota Motor Corp <7203.T>, Honda Motor Co <7267.T>, Nissan Motor Co <7201.T>, Hyundai Motor Co <005380.KS> and Kia Motors Co <000270.KS> have extensive manufacturing facilities in the United States. Volkswagen is building a new plant in the United States and BMW has a large U.S. facility that builds vehicles both for the U.S. and international markets.

The newer plants built by non-U.S. automakers are largely in southern states and areas where the union has traditionally struggled to organize workers.

The UAW already represents the U.S.-based General Motors Co , Ford Motor Co and Chrysler, which is managed by Fiat . The union's contracts with the three U.S. automakers expire in September. It did not disclose a timetable for talks with non-U.S. based automakers.

Last year the UAW held protests outside Toyota dealerships in California to demonstrate against the automaker's decision to close a union-represented plant in Fremont, California.

King said the bannering at Toyota dealerships was a taste of what automakers could expect if they do not adhere to the union's trust principles for bargaining.

(Reporting by David Bailey and Deepa Seetharaman; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)