Detroit's "Big 3" automakers to lose North American production crown for first time


2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV pre-production vehicles at Orion Township Assembly Plant, March 2016

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV pre-production vehicles at Orion Township Assembly Plant, March 2016

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For the first time ever, the Detroit Big Three will likely cede the North American production crown this year. A new automotive manufacturing forecast says General Motors, Ford, and Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles will build fewer cars in North America than foreign automakers (plus Tesla) on the continent.

Specifically, the forecast expects the Big Three's total production figure to total 8.6 million vehicles in North America, which includes Canada, the United States, and Mexico. Foreign automakers and U.S. automaker Tesla will just inch out GM, Ford, and FCA with 8.7 million vehicles built, according to IHS Markit, cited by Automotive News (subscription required). But, the gap is predicted to widen.

By 2024, it's estimated the Big Three will produce 8.1 million cars in North America, which represents a 6-percent decrease from the estimated 2017 production total. Meanwhile, it's estimated foreign automakers and Tesla will account for 9.8 million vehicles produced in North America. Why the drop from GM, Ford, and FCA? China.

In China, General Motors builds many of its cars locally through its SAIC-Wuling joint venture. In fact, it exports two vehicles from China to the United States: the Buick Envision and Cadillac CT6 Plug-In Hybrid. Ford has announced it will build the next-generation Ford Focus in China as well. On the other hand, foreign automakers have increasingly invested in U.S. manufacturing amid fears of increased tariffs and the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

There is a sliver of good news for American manufacturing. Despite American automakers producing fewer cars in North America, the forecast expects U.S manufacturing output to increase. It may not be GM, Ford, or FCA doing the hiring, though.

 
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