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Foreign Automakers Outproduce Big 3 In The U.S. For The First Time Ever

Photo: Bill Pugliano (Getty Images)
Photo: Bill Pugliano (Getty Images)

Overseas automakers built more vehicles in the U.S. than actual domestic brands did in 2023. That’s the first time that has ever happened. It should be noted this stat doesn’t include EV companies like Tesla, Rivian and Lucid. Still, it signals a big shift in American manufacturing.

Non-U.S. automakers like Toyota, BMW and Mercedes-Benz built over 4.9 million vehicles in the U.S. in 2023. That represents a jump of about half a million cars, according to the Detroit News. Meanwhile, the Big Three automakers, Ford, General Motors and Stellantis, built 4.6 million vehicles in 2023. That’s actually a 150,000-vehicle decline from the previous year.

Additionally, Lucid, Tesla and Rivian combined to build 754,342 vehicles in the U.S. in 2023. So, all in all, U.S. companies built about 5.4 million vehicles in the U.S. It’ll probably be some time before U.S. automakers completely give up their manufacturing crown.

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Here’s more on how we got here, from the News:

International automakers have increased their United States production by more than 85% over the past 25 years, the report said, going from about 2.4 million to 4.9 million. Meanwhile, the Detroit Three’s domestic production has dropped by about half in that period as foreign-owned brands claimed larger shares of the rich U.S. market. Much of that Detroit Three production has headed elsewhere, including Mexico, Canada and China.

Foreign automakers now build vehicles across nine states. And they have either auto plants, component plants, and battery plants across 13 states. Almost all are in the South, with the major exceptions being Ohio and Indiana.

This shift also sort of shows why the United Auto Workers union has been pushing to unionize non-U.S. automakers in southern states in the past few months.

The Detroit union has been pushing to organize more foreign-owned plants, achieving success on its third try at a Volkswagen plant in Tennessee. But the UAW failed in a unionization vote in May at a Mercedes production complex in Alabama. The union has pledged to continue on and try to organize more foreign plants as well as domestic EV producers like Tesla.

The campaign to organize foreign automakers has “existential dimensions” for the UAW, Masters said: “As the position of the Detroit Three shrinks, the bargaining power of the UAW falls commensurately in the U.S.”

A spokesperson for Ford, whom the Detroit News spoke to, didn’t seem too worried about this new trend. Stellantis and GM spokespeople didn’t respond for comment.

In a statement, Ford said its manufacturing in the United States has remained robust. It pointed to figures showing it has consistently led other automakers in U.S. production volume in recent years, including assembling about 1.8 million vehicles domestically in both 2022 and 2023.

“The real story is that year after year, Ford leads all automakers by a wide margin when it comes to producing vehicles in America with American workers,” the automaker said in a statement sent by spokesperson Jess Enoch. “We expect to continue that legacy in 2024.”

It’s a new era for manufacturing in the U.S. Sure, if you include the EV companies, U.S. automakers still produced more than foreign-owned ones, but it’s still pretty significant.

That’s enough from me. You should really head over the the Detroit News for a full rundown on the situation and what it could mean for the future of manufacturing in the United States.

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