It appears the Far East may not be responsible for everything the United States imports anymore. In fact what was once one of Japan’s major exports is being assembled right in our own backyard. A report by the Detroit Bureau reveals that almost seven out of 10 Japanese vehicles sold in the United States are assembled here as well.
This trend doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon either. Japan’s Yen is valued at an all-time high, which means that importing cars from Japan is more expensive than ever. Thus, the Japanese automakers are slowly moving their assembly plants to the markets where the vehicles are sold. Currently Honda has a plant in Alabama while Nissan has set-up shop in Tennessee. Toyota pieces its popular full-size Tundra together in San Antonio, Texas. Toyota has also announced it will be exporting several of its product lines, including the Sienna minivan, to Korea.
It’s been nearly 30 years since the first Japanese auto maker broke ground on a facility on U.S. soil. The first was a Honda factory in Marysville, Ohio, and since then Japanese “transplants,” as they’re called, are responsible for creating more than 400,000 jobs. A report obtained for the Japanese Automobile Manufacturers Association reveals that Japanese exports from U.S. facilities have been rising at a torrid pace. In 2010 alone, 145,000 vehicles exported as opposed to 95,000 the year prior but many expect that number to be lower after the natural disaster that plagued Japan and surrounding areas. North America is still sitting pretty however as smaller cars like the Honda Fit have become more favorable here as fuel prices continue to fluxuate.
A few factors play a major role in the shift of Japanese auto makers making the switch to come stateside. The obvious one is the strength the Yen continues to gain as the economy looks to stabilize. Another factor is that Japanese auto makers have become more aware of the political concerns swirling around the American trade deficit. Japanese auto makers wish to side-step the “voluntary” quotas that crippled sales in the U.S. a couple of decades ago. The third major factor playing a role in all of this is that American manufacturers have by and large closed the quality gap between themselves and the Japanese. Consumer are less wary of where their vehicle is assembled because build quality has become equalized all across the board.
It became the norm that the U.S. would house where Japanese auto maker would assemble lower-end vehicles but that is no longer the case. High-end vehicles like Infiniti’s new crossover, the JX, will be assembled stateside, along with the previously made-in-Japan Toyota Prius. Nissan will also be opening its Smyrna, Tennessee facility doors to produce several thousand Leaf electric hatchback vehicles. According to the report by the JAMA there were 29 facilities that assembled Japanese vehicles in the U.S. in 2010. All of which commanded a combined investment of $34 billion and employ around 50,000 people. Don’t expect it to stop there either. Toyota is already bringing over a new line to be assembled in Tupelo, Mississippi. As a whole Japanese auto makers provide around 407,000 jobs for Americans but it should also be noted that a majority of those are at dealerships across the country.
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Source: The Detroit Bureau