Honda makes history as car exports from US beat imports from Japan – Los Angeles Times
In what analysts are calling a watershed event, Honda Motor Co. said it exported 108,705 U.S.-made Honda and Acura vehicles last year while importing 88,537 vehicles from Japan.
“It is an important moment, particularly since manufacturing in the minds of many of the pundits is so yesterday,” said Harley Shaiken, a UC Berkeley professor who researches labor markets and globalization. “It underscores the possibilities of the U.S. in manufacturing and as a major exporter.”
The U.S. remains a net importer of cars. About 7 million of the 15.6 million vehicles sold in the U.S. last year were built in a different country, while factories here exported almost 3 million autos, according to IHS Automotive, an automotive research firm.
The U.S. economy also has seen a steady decline in manufacturing jobs, which fell to 12 million last year from 14.3 million in 2004.
But the Honda achievement helps to bolster several trends, said James Rubenstein, an auto industry analyst and professor at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.
“There is this globalization of the industry, and North America is increasingly competitive in the global market,” Rubenstein said.
There’s also a growing appetite for the types of larger cars, trucks and sport utility vehicles Americans like in many overseas markets, including Russia and the Middle East.
“They would have to come from here because who else makes them?” Rubenstein asked.
It’s also not surprising that Tokyo-based Honda, of all the Asian brands, was the first to reach this milestone.
“Honda [has] always been the most American of the major Japanese carmakers,” Rubenstein said.
Over the last three years, Honda has invested more than $2.7 billion to expand its U.S. and North American auto production operations.
“In just a few decades, the expansion of free trade and growth in U.S. operations has transformed Honda from importing 100% of the cars sold in the U.S. to establishing the U.S. as an export and production hub,” said Rick Schostek, senior vice president of Honda North America.
Honda makes Accords and an Acura sedan at its factory in Marysville, Ohio; its CR-V and Acura RDXs at a plant in East Liberty, Oho; Civics in Greensburg, Ind.; and minivans and big SUVs in Lincoln, Ala.
Honda’s U.S. plants produced a record 1.3 million automobiles last year, a 7.4% increase from the previous year.
One-third of Honda and Acura vehicles made in the U.S. are now also designed at offices in Southern California and in Ohio, Schostek said, and that is expected to grow.
“Our goal has been self-reliance here in North America,” he said.
The dollar value of Honda’s U.S. exports last year reached nearly $2.7 billion. Its biggest export markets were Saudi Arabia, Russia, United Arab Emirates and Mexico; the Accord, Civic and CR-V were the most popular models.
Other overseas automakers are increasing exports from the U.S. Toyota Motor Corp.‘s exports jumped to more than 124,000 vehicles in 2012 from about 86,000 the previous year. It does not yet have a final number for 2013.
“We do expect 2013 and 2014 to be dramatically increased thanks to exports to Russia and Australia of the Highlander, as well as other models,” said Mike Michels, Toyota’s spokesman.
Nissan exported 100,608 vehicles from its U.S. plants last year, a 37% increase over the prior year. But it is still importing many autos, including 338,000 vehicles from overseas plants.
Nissan Motor Co., however, believes its imports will decline. It recently shifted production of the Rogue to Smyrna, Tenn., from Japan and will move the Murano to a factory in Canton, Miss., from Japan. It also expects to ramp up sales of other vehicles produced in the U.S.
Mercedes-Benz and BMW also build SUVs in the U.S. for foreign markets.