Aug 31, 2021 - Economy & Business

The face of America's auto industry is changing

Data: Bureau of Economic Analysis; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

Foreign automakers and suppliers now employ more U.S. workers than domestic carmakers do, according to fresh data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Why it matters: The American auto industry is not the Detroit-based monolith it used to be. The shifting landscape now counts Chrysler as part of the Dutch giant Stellantis and Tesla as one of America's Big Three. Meanwhile, global carmakers and suppliers have been steadily expanding their U.S. manufacturing footprints.

By the numbers: About 51% of the 999,000 U.S. workers in the motor vehicles and parts manufacturing sector are employed by companies based in other countries, according to BEA data through 2019, the latest available.

  • That's up from 34% in 2009.
  • Auto suppliers, the vast majority of which are foreign-based, account for many of those jobs, notes the Center for Automotive Research.

What they're saying: “This is all driven by investment," Nancy McLernon, president and CEO of the Global Business Alliance, tells Axios. "Global automakers are making big bets on U.S. manufacturing because we have a huge consumer market, a skilled workforce and a strong business climate."

Details: Toyota, Mazda, Honda, Volkswagen, Volvo, BMW, Mercedes and Hyundai have all added jobs in the last few years.

  • Some are using their U.S. factories for exports. BMW, for example, exported almost 219,000 vehicles from the U.S. in 2020.
  • Fear of tariffs on imported vehicles and parts under the former Trump administration also contributed to global carmakers' growing U.S. footprint, industry sources tell Axios.

The bottom line: It's not just autos, McLernon says.

  • 69% of all new U.S. manufacturing jobs added in the past five years were created by global companies.
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