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.

By Kelsey Mays | July 2, 2012 | Comments (18)

Which Foreign-Owned Carmakers Build the Most in America?

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Last year, Honda built more cars at its Alabama, Indiana and Ohio facilities than it did in Japan — 826,440 versus 710,621, according to data from Automotive News and the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association. It's the first time Honda's U.S. production topped production in its home country.

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But that's a situation unique to Honda. Ten foreign-owned automakers assemble cars in the U.S., and the majority of them build most of their cars at home.

Honda never planned for things to unfold this way. Spokesman Ed Miller said the automaker "never had a goal one way or the other," but last year's natural disasters forced all automakers to slash production across Asia.

Indeed, Honda assembled some 40 percent more cars in Japan in 2010. But even then, the automaker nearly matched that figure with its U.S. production: "What we try to do is match our capacity and all the overhead that goes with it with the customer demand," Miller said. "But, you know, it's never an exact science."

By Kelsey Mays | April 25, 2012 | Comments (29)

Chattanooga: VW's Next Stand

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Chattanooga, Tenn. — Honda wasn't the first foreign automaker to open an assembly plant in the U.S., but it was the first to stay.

In 1978, German automaker Volkswagen converted an unfinished Chrysler plant in Westmoreland County, Pa., to build the Rabbit, but like the lost Roanoke outpost in pre-Colonial Virginia, the plant failed.

With a brand-new plant now open in Chattanooga and producing more than 600 Passats a day, Volkswagen officials say they have learned from the painful lessons of Westmoreland. They've used that knowledge to build a plant they believe will be a force in U.S. automotive manufacturing for years to come.

By Patrick Olsen | April 11, 2012 | Comments (0)

Honda's U.S. factory: 'Canary in coal mine' to dam-breaker

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By James R. Healey
USA TODAY

When Japan's Honda Motor announced in 1980 its then-radical decision to build cars in the U.S., the auto business collectively said, "What?"

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Volkswagen, alone among foreign car companies, was trying limited U.S. production, assembling Rabbit compacts at a Pennsylvania factory, and struggling to get it right. While auto buyers now take for granted that cars bearing European or Asian nameplates often are made in the heart of the U.S., 30 years ago it was a stunning notion.

Honda was "the canary in the coal mine," says John Voorhorst, a consultant and retired vice president of auto-parts supplier Denso. "There were a lot of skeptics here" betting that Honda's plant at Marysville, Ohio, wouldn't last long.

In fact, that "transplant" factory, which built its first Accord in November 1982, burst a dam. Within a few years Japan's major automakers all were here, cranking out hundreds of thousands of new vehicles a year.

By David Thomas | April 2, 2012 | Comments (1)

Where Our Cars Are Manufactured

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In our joint series with USA Today, Cars.com looked at exactly where automakers are building cars in the U.S. We took a snapshot of assembly plants over three decades from 1982 to 2012 to see where domestic, European and Asian automakers were building cars they sold here and exported.

We then took this data and transformed it into the interactive map below.

By David Thomas | April 2, 2012 | Comments (5)

America the Exporter

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As the auto industry regains its footing here, both foreign and domestic automakers are exporting more cars from the U.S. than five years ago, and they plan to dramatically expand that effort over the next half-decade.

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The combination of plant capacity, build quality, free-trade pacts, currency concerns and the maturity of the U.S. market have combined to make this a good place to assemble cars for sale overseas. "We are a low-cost manufacturing zone at the moment; that makes building here attractive," said Ed Kim, director of industry analysis at AutoPacific.

As the recession slowed car sales, capacity at U.S. plants was hardly being reached. With production and sales running well-below plant capacity, "one way to fill that capacity is to build cars for overseas," Kim said. "It's a smart allocation of resources."

Of course, "there are currency issues at play here," he said. With the yen extremely strong compared to the dollar, it makes sense for Japanese automakers like Nissan, Honda and Toyota to ramp up U.S. production.

By Patrick Olsen | April 2, 2012 | Comments (2)

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