American-Made Index: Which Automakers Affect the Most U.S. Workers?

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Cars.com's American-Made Index gauges how American a car is on a model-by-model basis, but there are lots of other ways to determine just how American a car is. If you look at raw employment figures, Detroit automakers have a larger footprint in the U.S. than do their foreign-owned competitors — but competition is closing the gap.

Start with the big picture: U.S. assembly and supplier plants employ some 770,000 Americans, according to seasonally adjusted figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That's up from fewer than 625,000 at the bottom of the recession, but it pales in comparison to pre-recession figures, when the industry employed more than 1 million.

When you factor in those who sell cars, you’re talking even more Americans, and that lets brands with no U.S. manufacturing presence still claim a piece of the pie. The BLS reports new- and used-car dealers employ nearly 1.1 million Americans, and it's a more stable source of jobs, fluctuating between 1 million and 1.25 million for most of the past 10 years.

Detroit Three vs. Japanese Three: 181,000 to 67,000
Car dealerships and suppliers often sell cars or furnish parts for multiple automakers. Take them out of the equation, and Detroit automakers have the clear lead in direct employment — at assembly, drivetrain, stamping, casting and tooling plants, research and design facilities, U.S. headquarters, testing grounds and the like. GM spokesman Fred Ligouri says GM employs 77,000 Americans. Chrysler's U.S. employment totals 39,200. Ford declined to provide numbers, but the American Automotive Policy Council, a group that represents the Detroit Three, says the Dearborn, Mich., automaker employs about 65,000.

Combined, that's more than 2.5 times the number of employees that Toyota, Nissan and Honda – the three largest Japanese automakers in the U.S. — employ. Toyota spokeswoman Carly Schaffner says Toyota employs more than 30,000 Americans, up from 29,089 in 2011. Honda has "just north of 26,000" at its U.S. operations, says spokesman Ed Miller. Nissan's U.S. operations employ 10,380 across six states. Hyundai-Kia employs 7,800, according to two spokesmen for the Korean automaker.

It's no wonder the AAPC says that the Detroit Three employ two out of every three autoworkers in the U.S. Indeed, Michigan — home to 38 light-duty auto plants, all partly or wholly owned by the Detroit Three — employs 136,400 automotive workers, according to BLS. The next closest state is Ohio, which has 14 Detroit Three and four Honda plants, with 75,900 autoworkers there.

"We're certainly never going to deny that [the Detroit Three] are global companies in a global marketplace," says AAPC President Matt Blunt. "But they're certainly performing above what one would expect in the United States in terms of employment, in terms of parts, in terms of capital investment."

Others Catching Up
Competitors are catching up. Consider the past decade alone: Miller says Honda "had about 25,000 [or] 26,000" on its U.S. payrolls in the early 2000s, while Schaffner says Toyota employed 30,100 in 2002. That represents roughly even employment over the decade — or, more realistically, recovered momentum since the recession. In 2007, the year before U.S. auto sales went into free fall, Toyota employed nearly 37,000.

Contrast that with the Detroit Three, whose employment may never recover to pre-recession levels. The Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich., says employment at GM, Ford and Chrysler has risen slightly since 2009, but in the early 2000s, the three automakers employed more than double what they do today. In 2001, Ligouri notes, some 168,000 worked at GM alone.

"The Detroit Three have two-thirds of the assembly plants that they had five years ago," says Kristin Dziczek, who directs CAR's Labor and Industry group. As a result, however, Detroit automakers have "a very sharp upward trend in productivity at the same time. So the reinvestment, which has been huge, has really pushed productivity to very high levels."

That's a point AAPC likes to make. The group says that Detroit Three automakers use fewer workers per car assembled, but they employ more overall because of marketing, finance, research and development and other efforts.

Of course, foreign-owned carmakers claim plenty of U.S. investment in product development, too. Toyota says its U.S. operations include five R&D centers and two design facilities. Honda's Miller reckons the automaker's U.S. development facilities employ "several thousand." And Nissan's U.S. design and technical centers have shaped the Altima, Maxima, Xterra and Frontier.

Global Automakers, a trade group that represents Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Hyundai-Kia, Subaru and several foreign-owned niche brands, argues its member companies invested $40.2 billion in the U.S. in 2011. "Last year we produced 34 percent of the 8.7 million vehicles built in the U.S.," spokeswoman Caroline DeLaney says. "That's still a significant portion."

AAPC's Blunt accepts their contributions.

"We really do welcome foreign competition," he says. "We certainly welcome foreign direct investment, and when Americans get a job working for a foreign automaker, that’s great for the community."

But Blunt maintains it's not as much the contributions from Chrysler — the smallest Detroit automaker, which is controlled by Italy’s Fiat — let alone GM or Ford.

"Ford by itself and GM by itself — the fact that they're purchasing alone as many auto parts as all of the Japanese auto companies combined, that's really a pretty telling statistic," he says.

Down the Road
Will employment from foreign-owned automakers ever catch up to domestic automakers? After slashing jobs and cutting production, Detroit carmakers are back in the black. Last spring, GM posted its ninth consecutive quarter of profits, and Ford posted its 11th. Chrysler is on track to outpace its 2011 profits by eight times this year. CAR estimates the Detroit Three will have nearly 200,000 Americans on their payrolls by 2015. That's up more than 20,000 from 2011.

Foreign-owned automakers are adding to their ranks, too. Toyota added 2,000 jobs at a Mississippi plant to build the Corolla compact. Hyundai spokesman Miles Johnson says U.S. employment at Hyundai alone will increase 20 percent this year.

But CAR's Dziczek doesn't see the overall gap closing anytime soon.

"I don't think in five years it changes radically from what it is," she says. "There's not a lot of talk about opening up new [foreign-owned] capacity."

Related
More on the American-Made Index
See a Map of Where Cars in America are Built
More Automotive News

Comments 

We love Japanese vehicles. We have 3 Japanese Cars in our family.

Also we have seen there are many Japanese motor importers in USA. We found one website www.usedjapanmotors.com

Sally L.

It's sad when we as Americans glorify a bunch of cutthroats like the Asians and their transplants who have taken existing good paying/tax paying jobs and have forced American workers to a lower standard of living, lower wages, lower benefits, and have shoved their BOGUS quality and gas mileage down our throats.

Spacy

So let me get this strait. Japs are building more cars with half as many people. Wonder why our American cars are so expensive?

Adreana Langston

I'd like to see a follow up article regarding "Who Is Building After-Market Parts". There are a lot more vehicles older than 5 years on the road then there are new cars. People driving older cars are frequently the ones who can least afford the consequences of a failure of a crappily manufactured replacement part.

It's a well-known truth of the matter far and wide that Americans cherish their autos. Notwithstanding for a large number of decades, Americans overwhelmingly turned to the Huge Several automakers--General Engines, Portage and Chrysler--to fulfill their automotive desire. Well right from the starting, the interesting Japanese household business sector mandated an offbeat way of handling autos. In the '50s, '60s and '70s, there were fewer potential clients than in America, narrower streets and small in the way of interest for oversized muscle autos. In place of transforming impressive various a restricted number of models, as the American auto groups did, Japanese ensembles centered on recognizing the most productive route to make confined various numerous models.

ddaryl

Sally get a grip.. Honda America and Toyota America create plenty of good paying good wage jobs in the USA, and both are high up on the amount of Americans they employ.

Ford Chevy GM Buick all have plenty of manufacturing sites around the world, and the import their share of parts from many different countries.

EDUCATE YOURSELF ON THE FACTS 1st

japhater

When are you people going to stop thinking where a car is made actually means something??!! It doesn’t. By buying jap crap, you are helping our enemies do harm to America. Note these facts;
the japs put tariffs on any imports to their country, we do not. Their government purposely manipulates the yen so that it is less than the US dollar. 1/3 of toyotas' profits come from this. American companies employ more workers because they build more models not because they are inefficient! The most efficient assembly plants are owned by the American manufacturers. If you buy japanese, you are helping them exploit American, NON-UNION workers by giving them less than comparable wages and no pensions. japanese car manufacturers build one or two token vehicles in the US only to avoid import duties and transportation costs, and to make unsuspecting Americans buy them. Lastly, don't believe J.D.Power. If a fuse blows versus an unintended acceleration (like the toyotas that killed people), it has the same weight in their surveys. Remember the jap cars are built by the same school of engineering that turned japan into a nuclear waste dump!

Wakeup

A simple fact. GM alone employes more auto workers than the largest three Japanese manufacturers. The profits from domestic vehicles stay here in the U.S. Does anybody recall that the Japanese bombed Peal Harbor in 1941?It should bother you when the Asian manufacturers start waving the American flag in their commercials.

LoveAmerica

Daryl you get educated! I support America and Chrysler, ford, gm cars only to help America. Anyone who does not buy their car from the big Detroit 3 does not support America.

Honda and Toyota creates minimum jobs in USA and 2.5 less per person . Only the big Detroit 3 employ 2.5 more Amercian jobs than foreign car companies. The article says that and is true.

Support USA and only buy cars from Chrysler, Ford, and GM !

nelly

Its very stupid to think buying american vehicles only will help economy.Why dont you'll think buying a good vehicle will help now only us but globally .Its the right thing to do.Moreover help more companies come in us to invest which is what hurting our economy because of this anti foreign thing .More companies going invest in china and india where the growth is solidly by good product not by partiality.
Apple an american company has to open its manufacturing in china because of some of this bullshit here.
put your stupidity on the side and buy a good vehicle and help grow that good company.not use and throw cars.

BGW

Spacy all it means is the Asian automakers buy more parts from 3rd party parts plants...

Jason Rivers

Thanks for posting this American made index. You guys are awesome for helping us keep track of this. I only will buy American made, and I don't just stop at cars and trucks, but also all the internal and external aftermarket parts. You can find good dealers online for example these days and cheap http://www.builtfortrucks.com/brands/Boondock-Bumpers.html With the internet there is really no real reason to try to buy something made elsewhere.

UNIONS are the reason Americans SHOULD buy foreign-ownership, manufactured in USA cars.

Aerican labor unions take Union dues money from every member, whether they like it or not, and give that money directly to the Democratic Party, thus sustaining the Democrats' far-left slide that's killing this Republic. Union members used to hate Communists; now, their leadership and chosen political Party are almost indistinguishable from Communists.

Look up 'sustainability', 'loose fiscal policies' and 'de Tocqueville'. American auto manufacturers need drop the Unions; we would be much better off without them.

See also, Detroit. 'With its 48 unions and nearly $20 billion in debt - an entire third of which is unfunded healthcare liabilities for city retirees - Detroit saw its peak population of nearly 2,000,000 in 1950 dwindle to about 700,000 today. Of those 700,000, a third live under the poverty level and a fifth are unemployed.'

That's what Unions did for Detroit. And are doing to America with every dollar given to the Democrats.

whatever

for well over 20 yrs i've owned and drove an american made car buying into the support my country thing, but i've bought my first nissan and love it and will not go back to an american made car unless i'm loooking for an old school muscle car, american made cars are not made of the same quality sorry to say, if they ever step up their game in that then maybe i'll look at them again but theres no reason for me to waste my money on something i am not happy with

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the United States supplier and assembly plants employ some 770,000 Americans. That figure is up from 625,000 at the bottom of the recession. However, that number pales in comparison to pre-recession figures, when the industry employed more than a million people. Search for employment jobs at Granted, where you can secure a supplier and assembly plant position today.

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