The US auto industry continues to rebound from its 2009 lows with 2012 sales coming in at more than 30 percent above its historic lows. Sales are still about 2.5 million units shy of the peak level reached at the beginning of the millennium, but the general mood of the industry is one that is decidedly upbeat. Three of the industry’s shining stars are taking advantage of current auto trends and are expanding North American production capacity in a bid to gain market share.
The three shining stars do not include Hyundai and Kia, Korean automakers that will continue to work with the two US plants that they have. Consumer demand continues to shift to Subaru, Volkswagen and BMW, with each company planning to meet market demand with new models and expanded North American build capacity.
Subaru Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., parent of Subaru, is partly owned by Toyota Motors. With or without Toyota, the company is enjoying rock solid growth, as consumers flock to a line of cars that are highly dependable, affordable and retain good value.
That Toyota is part of the mix is evident in the Subaru BRZ, a sport model that has raised Subarus profile considerably. Subarus lone foreign production plant is located in Indiana and currently builds its Outback, Legacy and Tribeca models. The plant also handles some production of the Toyota Camry, and will expand that plants capacity by 30 percent according to the Nikkei business daily.
Volkswagen No less than global dominance is Volkswagen’s goal, with the German automaker likely to claim sales leadership several years earlier than its previously announced 2018 goal. Its lone US plant is in Tennessee with a current build capacity of 150,000 units. Although an expansion of that plant has yet to be announced, we should learn of VW’s plans in 2013.
Where Volkswagen is expanding production is in Mexico. Its first North American Audi plant will open in San Jose Chiapa, Mexico in 2016, and will build the successor for the Audi Q5 SUV. Beginning production capacity will be 150,000 units with expansion possible to accommodate additional Audi models down the road. In addition, the Volkswagen brand currently operates a manufacturing plant in Puebla and an engine plant in Silao.
BMW South Carolina is the US base for this German make. The company had been thought to be looking at building a second plant. Instead, BMW is the process of expanding its Spartanburg manufacturing facility through a $900 million upgrade. When completed in 2014, the South Carolina facility will have a 350,000 annual unit output capacity, expanding its production limit by 27 percent.
The Spartanburg plant will build the new BMW X4 SUV. Every BMW SUV except for the X1 is built in Spartanburg, with more than two-thirds of its production sent abroad.
Other manufacturers are looking for ways to squeeze more production from existing plants, with some loathe to take on the expense of building all-new plants. Instead, existing plants are being modernized to accommodate new vehicle lines as well as to raise capacity by adding new shifts as needed.
See Also — BMW Spartanburg Plant Slated for $1 Billion Expansion
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