U.S. Automotive Trade Improving But Damage In Spring Too Deep To Overcome

Exports and imports in the crucial U.S. automotive industry are bouncing back from the bludgeoning they took in late spring, but will not be able to erase their steep losses by year’s end, new government data for October released on Friday shows.

For example, for the year, motor vehicle imports are down 24.36%, which is equal to almost $36 billion. That’s despite the fact that in the month of October, those imports increased 9.96% when compared to the previous October, and 16.27% when compared to the previous month, September.

Motor vehicles, the nation’s most important import, were also the nation’s second most important export in October. Year-to-date, motor vehicle imports still rank first. Motor vehicle exports, however, rank fifth.

The primary category for motor vehicle parts category ranked seventh on both the export and import side for October and year-to-date.

There are numerous other automotive categories in the U.S. data, including for diesel and internal combustion engines, catalytic converters, tractor rigs, commercial vehicles, transmissions and more.

U.S. automotive trade is largely centered on Mexico, China and Canada, particularly on the import side. On the export side, particularly with motor vehicles, the United States casts a wider net. But those three nations, the United States’ top three trade partners, account for about 42% of all U.S. trade, including automotive.

In the automotive import category, Japan, Mexico and Canada generally account for just under two-thirds of all imports, with each in the range of 21% to 22%. Mexico has been gaining ground on Japan in recent years.

Overall imports are up 9.96% when compared to the previous October and 16.27% when compared to September, the previous month. Imports from all three have decreased more than 20% this year, or about $24 billion. Imports from South Korea, ranked fourth, have increased slightly, 0.21% while those from fifth-ranked Germany are down 38.13%. Those five accounted for 84$ of the total through October.

On the export side, to top that 84% figure you need to include the top 17 markets, which is led by Canada (23%), Germany (16%) and China (13%) but also include Mexico in North America; the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Oman in the Middle East; Belgium and the United Kingdom in Europe; Nigeria in Africa; and Australia. In the month of October, U.S. exports were still down 5.82% when compared to the previous October but were up 10.65% when compared to the previous month of September.

The seaports and border crossings used for motor vehicle trade, by extension, are somewhat different as well. For ocean trade, special “RO-RO,” or roll on, roll off, ships are used.

For imports, the leading ports are Detroit’s Ambassador Bridge (12%, largely from Canada), the Port of Baltimore (9.3%, split among Japan, Mexico, Germany and the United Kingdom), Port Laredo (8%, Mexico), Port of Brunswick, Ga. (7.7%, South Korea as well as the United Kingdom and Germany) and the Port of Newark (6.5%, largely Japan).

For exports, about 55% depart from the Port of Charleston (20%, largely to Germany and China), the Port of Brunswick, Ga. (14%, largely to Germany and China), Detroit’s Ambassador Bridge (11%, largely to Canada) and the Port of San Francisco (10%, largely Teslas bound for Belgium).

Motor vehicle part imports increased 11.87% when compared to the previous October and 9.72% when compared to the previous month. On the year, however, imports remain down 18.25%.

Year-to-date, more than 38% come from Mexico and those are down 16.22%, or $3.49 billion. Imports from second-ranked Canada are down 19.69% while those from the third- and fourth-ranked countries, China and Japan, have each fallen more than 20%.

On the export side, motor vehicle parts were down 1.85% when compared to the previous October but up 4.6% from September. Year-to-date, however, motor vehicle part exports are still off 26.65%.

More than 71% go to just two countries, Mexico (38.03%) and Canada (33.2%). Exports to Mexico are off 28.56% year-to-date while those to Canada are down 33.84%. Exports to the third-leading market, China, have increased this year, up 28.23%.