As the new US administration considers new tariffs on vehicles not made in America, let’s focus on the foreign cars, SUVs and trucks made here: Japan’s Toyota, Honda and Nissan; Germany’s BMW, Mercedes-Benz and VW; Korea’s Hyundai and Kia. Coming soon are Audi and Porsche, which have announced plans to build factories in the USA.
Of course, American companies General Motors and Ford build cars and trucks in the USA, and Italian-owned Fiat-Chrysler builds Dodge, Chrysler and Jeep models in the USA.
Foreign car companies employ more than 100,000 people in the United States, plus there are several hundred thousand more jobs at companies that supply parts, including tires, uniforms, office supplies, food, etc.
VW’s sprawling factory in Chattanooga, where the Passat is built and where the new Atlas truck will be built, is the first LEED certified automobile plant in the world, much of it powered by a huge solar installation.
In 2016, Toyota produced a record number of 2,124,608 vehicles built at its North American vehicle assembly plants, a 4.4 percent increase over 2015. US-built Toyota Camrys, one of the best-selling models on the planet, contain more than 80% parts made in America. That’s often more American-made parts than in vehicles we consider American, such as Ford and GM.
More than 70% of the BMW SUVs made in America, at the multi-billion-dollar BMW factory and US headquarters in South Carolina, are exported around the world.
Nissan builds the Leaf EV in the USA, many of which are exported around the world, and has just invested billions in a factory in Tennessee to build lithium ion batteries for the Leaf and other electric vehicles in the pipeline. Nissan also builds engines in the USA for export to its factories around the world. Nissan also has just opened a factory in Myanmar to build small cars for the Asian market.
In October, Honda announced a new $53 million project to construct a campus in Central Ohio campus that will house information technology operations and market quality operations North America. The 38,000-square foot Ohio Data Center will join a similar facility near Denver, Colorado, in housing key information technologies for Honda, increasing secure data storage capabilities in North America.
Subaru has moved production of its popular Impreza sedan Japan to the USA, beginning with 2017 models. Subaru also builds the Legacy and Outback in the USA, for the U.S. and Canadian markets. Subaru also will add it’s all-new 3-row crossover SUV to its production line-up in 2018. Those production changes mean Subaru is close to doubling its annual capacity from 218,000 vehicles 394,000 by the end of 2017, and will product 436,000 vehicles in the USA by March 2019.
Italian-owned Fiat-Chrysler has committed investments of more than $9.6 billion in its U.S. manufacturing facilities, and created 25,000 new jobs since 2009.
It’s all part of the globalization of the automotive industry, and the drive to reduce costs. Simply, it’s cheaper to produce cars where your customers live than to ship them half way around the world.
That’s why Ford has factories in Mexico, making cars for the South American market, and in China, for the Chinese market. Lincoln is one of the fastest-growing luxury brands in China, all of them models exported from America, where Lincolns are manufactured.
Ford used to own Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo, but sold them a decade ago. Jaguar and Land Rover now are owned by the Indian company Tata, and Volvo is now owned by a Chinese company.
GM owns Opel, the European company that builds Chevrolet-like mid-priced family vehicles that are solid sellers. Opel is so popular in Europe that GM stopped marketing Chevrolets there, so it wouldn’t be competing with itself. Some Opel parts and technology are shared with GM’s American brands, and the other way around.
GM builds Buicks in China, where Buick is considered a luxury brand, including one SUV model designed in China specifically for the Chinese market.
VW has been in Brazil for more than 50 years, making vehicles for South America. VW also owns the Spanish car company Seat and the Czech company Skoda, which make vehicles in their home countries and in Eastern Europe. VW also owns Lamborghini, the legendary Italian sports car manufacturer, and the British uber-luxury car-maker Bentley.
Some things to think about as the new Trump administration considers tariffs on vehicles built overseas.