The Decline of U.S. Car Production
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The Decline of U.S. Car Production

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The Briefing

  • U.S. auto manufacturing has been in a downward trend since the 1970s
  • Overseas competitors have gradually eroded the market share of America’s Big Three
  • Recent events like the global chip shortage present further setbacks

U.S. Car Production Falls to a New Low

Germany may have been the birthplace of the automobile, but it was America that developed the methods for mass production.

Created in 1913, Henry Ford’s assembly line greatly reduced the time it took to build a car. This also made cars more affordable, and America’s automotive industry quickly became the largest in the world. As we can see in the chart above, this dominance wouldn’t last forever.

From a high of nearly 10 million cars per month in the 1970s, the U.S. produced just 1.4 million in June 2021. Here are some reasons for why the country produces a fraction of the cars it used to.

Global Competition

America’s Big Three (Ford, GM, and Chrysler*) have been unable to defend their market share from overseas competitors. The following table shows how Honda and Toyota were able to break into the U.S. market over a span of just five decades.

YearFordGMChryslerBig Three
Total Market Share
HondaToyota
196029.3%45.7%10.4%85.4%--
197028.3%38.9%14.9%82.1%-2.0%
198020.5%44.2%9.1%73.8%3.3%6.2%
199023.8%35.2%12.0%71.0%6.0%7.6%
200022.6%28.0%13.0%63.6%6.5%9.1%
201016.4%18.8%9.2%44.4%10.5%15.0%

*Chrysler is now a part of Stellantis N.V., a multinational corporation.
Source: WardsAuto

The 1970s presented an incredible opportunity for Honda and Toyota, which at the time were known for producing smaller, more fuel-efficient cars.

First was the Clean Air Act of 1970, which imposed limits on the amount of emissions a car could produce. Then came the 1973 oil crisis, which caused a massive spike in gasoline prices.

As consumers switched to smaller cars, American brands struggled to compete. For example, the flawed design of the Ford Pinto (Ford’s first subcompact car) was exposed in 1972 after one exploded in a rear-end collision. The ensuing lawsuit, Grimshaw v. Ford Motor Company, undoubtedly left a stain on the automaker’s reputation.

Production Moves to Mexico

2018 was a controversial year for GM as it came under fire by the Trump administration for closing four of its U.S. plants. That same year, GM became Mexico’s biggest automaker.

The decision to outsource is well-founded from a business standpoint. Mexico offers cheaper labor, lower taxes, and close proximity for logistics. Altogether, these benefits add up to roughly $1,200 in savings per car.

It’s important to note that GM isn’t alone in this decision. BMW, Ford, and many others have also invested in Mexico to produce cars destined for the United States.

Shifts in the Market

There are other, less obvious factors to consider too.

Modern cars are much more reliable, meaning Americans don’t need to purchase a new one as often. 2020 marks four consecutive years of increase for the average vehicle age in the U.S., which now sits at 12 years old.

“In the mid-’90s, 100,000 miles was about all you would get out of a vehicle. Now, at a 100,000 miles a vehicle is just getting broken in.”
– Todd Campau, Associate Director, IHS Markit

Rising car prices could also be playing a part. The average price of a new car was $41,000 as of July 2021, up from around $35,700 in May 2018.

Can U.S. Car Production Make a Comeback?

Recent events are a grim reminder of the direction U.S. car production is heading.

As part of its plant closures, GM shuttered its Lordstown facility in 2019. This broke a 2008 agreement in which GM pledged to keep 3,700 employees at the location through 2028. The company had received over $60 million in tax credits as part of this deal, and $28 million was ordered to be paid back.

COVID-19 has presented further issues, such as the ongoing chip shortage which has impacted the production of more than 1 million U.S.-made vehicles.

Not all hope is lost, however.

Tesla now employs over 70,000 Americans across its production facilities in California, Nevada, New York, and soon, Texas. The company is joined by Lucid Motors and Rivian, two entrants into the EV industry that have both opened U.S. plants in 2021.

Where does this data come from?

Source: Trading Economics

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Visualizing Companies with the Most Patents Granted in 2021

Companies around the world invest billions in R&D to provide cutting-edge innovation to their products and services.

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companies with the most patents

The Briefing

  • In 2021, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) granted a total of 327,798 utility patents
  • For almost three decades, IBM has been granted more patents each year than any other U.S. company

Visualizing Companies with the Most Patents Granted in 2021

Companies around the world invest billions in R&D to provide cutting-edge innovation to their products and services. In order to protect these investments, companies apply for patents. Therefore, the number of utility patents a company is granted can be considered a rough measure of its level of innovation.

Every year, the Patent 300 List identifies America’s most innovative companies within the intellectual property space by analyzing the patents granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

In 2021, the USPTO granted a total of 327,798 utility patents, down 7% from the previous year. Let’s take a look at which companies generated the most patents in 2021.

RankCountryCompany/Organization2021
Patents
Change
from 2020
1🇺🇸 U.S.International Business Machines Corporation8,540-9%
2🇰🇷 South KoreaSamsung Electronics Co., Ltd.8,5170%
3🇰🇷 South KoreaLg Corporation4,388-13%
4🇯🇵 JapanCanon K.K.3,400-8%
5🇨🇳 ChinaHuawei Technologies Co., Ltd.2,955-7%
6🇺🇸 U.S.Intel Corporation2,835-14%
7🇹🇼 TaiwanTaiwan Semiconductor Mfg. Co. Ltd.2,807-3%
8🇯🇵 JapanToyota Jidosha K.K.2,753-2%
9🇺🇸 U.S.Raytheon Technologies Corporation2,694-16%
10🇯🇵 JapanSony Corporation2,624-9%

For 29 consecutive years, IBM has led U.S. companies in the number of patents received annually. In 2021, the company received 8,540 patents, a 9% decline from the previous year.

IBM’s innovations are focused on solving major global challenges, and cover areas such as sustainable growth, climate change, and preventing future pandemics, as well as initiatives enabling food and energy security. They aim to address these problems through a blend of high-performance computing, artificial intelligence (AI), and quantum computing.

One of IBM’s most noteworthy innovations in 2021 was their new quantum processor called Eagle, which broke the 100-qubit barrier to bring quantum computing into a new era. This processor has the ability to solve problems that classical computers can’t, giving it the potential to bring real-world benefits to different fields from renewable energy to finance and more.

Samsung: A Close Second Innovator

Samsung Electronics is one of the biggest innovators over the last decade. In 2021, the company got 8,517 patents granted by the USPTO, a close second to IBM.

The company’s patent-winning innovations take place in several areas, including virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR), artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML), 5G technologies, and autonomous driving.

The Technology Sector Dominates Utility Patents

Unsurprisingly, out of the top 25 companies with the most patents granted in 2021, 16 of them belong to the technology sector.

However, utility patents are not only limited to tech companies.

In fact, companies from all sectors apply for patents every year. Patents are great assets for companies since they give them exclusive commercial rights for their inventions and protect them from competition. This is one of the main reasons we see companies getting thousands of new patents every year.

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Russia Has Been Suspended From the UN Human Rights Council

Here’s how the global community voted on the resolution: In favor – 93 | Abstained – 58 | Against – 24

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Visualization showing Russia's suspension from UN Human Rights Council. 93 countries voted for the resolution, 24 against

The Briefing

  • 93 countries voted in favor of suspending Russia from the UN’s Human Rights Council, including all NATO member countries
  • 24 countries voted against the resolution, including; China, Iran, and North Korea

Russia Has Been Suspended From the UN Human Rights Council

On April 7, 2022, the United Nations suspended Russia from its seat on the Human Rights Council.

This suspension comes amid growing condemnation of Russia over alleged civilian murders committed by Russian troops in Ukraine. Widely distributed videos appear to show the bodies of civilians scattered along the streets in the Ukrainian town of Bucha.

To be approved, the resolution required a two-thirds majority of assembly members that vote “yes” or “no”. Here is a complete list of how countries voted:

CountryVoteNATO MemberFormer Soviet Union
🇦🇩 AndorraIn favor
🇦🇫 Afghanistan--
🇦🇬 Antigua and BarbudaIn favor
🇦🇱 AlbaniaIn favor
✔️
🇦🇲 Armenia--
✔️
🇦🇴 AngolaAbstained
🇦🇷 ArgentinaIn favor
🇦🇹 AustriaIn favor
🇦🇺 AustraliaIn favor
🇦🇿 Azerbaijan--
✔️
🇧🇧 BarbadosAbstained
🇧🇩 BangladeshAbstained
🇧🇪 BelgiumIn favor
✔️
🇧🇫 Burkina Faso--
🇧🇬 BulgariaIn favor
✔️
🇧🇭 BahrainAbstained
🇧🇮 BurundiAgainst
🇧🇯 Benin--
🇧🇳 Brunei DarussalamAbstained
🇧🇴 BoliviaAgainst
🇧🇷 BrazilAbstained
🇧🇸 BahamasIn favor
🇧🇹 BhutanAbstained
🇧🇼 BotswanaAbstained
🇧🇾 BelarusAgainst
✔️
🇧🇿 BelizeAbstained
🇨🇦 CanadaIn favor
✔️
🇨🇩 Dem. Republic of the CongoIn favor
🇨🇫 Central African RepublicAgainst
🇨🇬 Republic of the CongoAgainst
🇨🇭 SwitzerlandIn favor
🇨🇮 Côte d’IvoireIn favor
🇨🇱 ChileIn favor
🇨🇲 CameroonAbstained
🇨🇳 ChinaAgainst
🇨🇴 ColombiaIn favor
🇨🇷 Costa RicaIn favor
🇨🇺 CubaAgainst
🇨🇻 Cabo VerdeAbstained
🇨🇾 CyprusIn favor
🇨🇿 Czech RepublicIn favor
✔️
🇩🇪 GermanyIn favor
✔️
🇩🇯 Djibouti--
🇩🇰 DenmarkIn favor
✔️
🇩🇲 DominicaIn favor
🇩🇴 Dominican RepublicIn favor
🇩🇿 AlgeriaAgainst
🇪🇨 EcuadorIn favor
🇪🇪 EstoniaIn favor
✔️
✔️
🇪🇬 EgyptAbstained
🇪🇷 EritreaAgainst
🇪🇸 SpainIn favor
✔️
🇪🇹 EthiopiaAgainst
🇫🇮 FinlandIn favor
🇫🇯 FijiIn favor
🇫🇲 MicronesiaIn favor
🇫🇷 FranceIn favor
✔️
🇬🇦 GabonAgainst
🇬🇩 GrenadaIn favor
🇬🇪 GeorgiaIn favor
✔️
🇬🇭 GhanaAbstained
🇬🇲 GambiaAbstained
🇬🇳 Guinea--
🇬🇶 Equatorial Guinea--
🇬🇷 GreeceIn favor
✔️
🇬🇹 GuatemalaIn favor
🇬🇼 Guinea-BissauAbstained
🇬🇾 GuyanaAbstained
🇭🇳 HondurasIn favor
🇭🇷 CroatiaIn favor
✔️
🇭🇹 HaitiIn favor
🇭🇺 HungaryIn favor
✔️
🇮🇩 IndonesiaAbstained
🇮🇪 IrelandIn favor
🇮🇱 IsraelIn favor
🇮🇳 IndiaAbstained
🇮🇶 IraqAbstained
🇮🇷 IranAgainst
🇮🇸 IcelandIn favor
✔️
🇮🇹 ItalyIn favor
✔️
🇯🇲 JamaicaIn favor
🇯🇴 JordanAbstained
🇯🇵 JapanIn favor
🇰🇪 KenyaAbstained
🇰🇬 KyrgyzstanAgainst
✔️
🇰🇭 CambodiaAbstained
🇰🇮 KiribatiIn favor
🇰🇲 ComorosIn favor
🇰🇳 Saint Kitts and NevisAbstained
🇰🇵 North KoreaAgainst
🇰🇷 South KoreaIn favor
🇰🇼 KuwaitAbstained
🇰🇿 KazakhstanAgainst
✔️
🇱🇦 LaosAgainst
🇱🇧 Lebanon--
🇱🇨 Saint LuciaIn favor
🇱🇮 LiechtensteinIn favor
🇱🇰 Sri LankaAbstained
🇱🇷 LiberiaIn favor
🇱🇸 LesothoAbstained
🇱🇹 LithuaniaIn favor
✔️
✔️
🇱🇺 LuxembourgIn favor
✔️
🇱🇻 LatviaIn favor
✔️
✔️
🇱🇾 LibyaIn favor
🇲🇦 Morocco--
🇲🇨 MonacoIn favor
🇲🇩 MoldovaIn favor
✔️
🇲🇪 MontenegroIn favor
✔️
🇲🇬 MadagascarAbstained
🇲🇭 Marshall IslandsIn favor
🇲🇰 North MacedoniaIn favor
✔️
🇲🇱 MaliAgainst
🇲🇲 MyanmarIn favor
🇲🇳 MongoliaAbstained
🇲🇷 Mauritania--
🇲🇹 MaltaIn favor
🇲🇺 MauritiusIn favor
🇲🇻 MaldivesAbstained
🇲🇼 MalawiIn favor
🇲🇽 MexicoAbstained
🇲🇾 MalaysiaAbstained
🇲🇿 MozambiqueAbstained
🇳🇦 NamibiaAbstained
🇳🇪 NigerAbstained
🇳🇬 NigeriaAbstained
🇳🇮 NicaraguaAgainst
🇳🇱 NetherlandsIn favor
✔️
🇳🇴 NorwayIn favor
✔️
🇳🇵 NepalAbstained
🇳🇷 NauruIn favor
🇳🇿 New ZealandIn favor
🇴🇲 OmanAbstained
🇵🇦 PanamaIn favor
🇵🇪 PeruIn favor
🇵🇬 Papua New GuineaIn favor
🇵🇭 PhilippinesIn favor
🇵🇰 PakistanAbstained
🇵🇱 PolandIn favor
✔️
🇵🇹 PortugalIn favor
✔️
🇵🇼 PalauIn favor
🇵🇾 ParaguayIn favor
🇶🇦 QatarAbstained
🇷🇴 RomaniaIn favor
✔️
🇷🇸 SerbiaIn favor
🇷🇺 RussiaAgainst
✔️
🇷🇼 Rwanda--
🇸🇦 Saudi ArabiaAbstained
🇸🇧 Solomon Islands--
🇸🇨 SeychellesIn favor
🇸🇩 SudanAbstained
🇸🇪 SwedenIn favor
🇸🇬 SingaporeAbstained
🇸🇮 SloveniaIn favor
✔️
🇸🇰 SlovakiaIn favor
✔️
🇸🇱 Sierra LeoneIn favor
🇸🇲 San MarinoIn favor
🇸🇳 SenegalAbstained
🇸🇴 Somalia--
🇸🇷 SurinameAbstained
🇸🇸 South SudanAbstained
🇸🇹 Sao Tome and Principe--
🇸🇻 El SalvadorAbstained
🇸🇾 SyriaAgainst
🇸🇿 EswatiniAbstained
🇹🇩 ChadIn favor
🇹🇬 TogoAbstained
🇹🇭 ThailandAbstained
🇹🇯 TajikistanAgainst
✔️
🇹🇱 Timor LesteIn favor
🇹🇲 Turkmenistan--
✔️
🇹🇳 TunisiaAbstained
🇹🇴 TongaIn favor
🇹🇷 TurkeyIn favor
✔️
🇹🇹 Trinidad and TobagoAbstained
🇹🇻 TuvaluIn favor
🇹🇿 TanzaniaAbstained
🇺🇦 UkraineIn favor
✔️
🇺🇬 UgandaAbstained
🇦🇪 United Arab EmiratesAbstained
🇬🇧 United KingdomIn favor
✔️
🇺🇸 United StatesIn favor
✔️
🇺🇾 UruguayIn favor
🇺🇿 UzbekistanAgainst
✔️
🇻🇨 St Vincent and the GrenadinesAbstained
🇻🇪 Venezuela--
🇻🇳 VietnamAgainst
🇻🇺 VanuatuAbstained
🇼🇸 SamoaIn favor
🇾🇪 YemenAbstained
🇿🇦 South AfricaAbstained
🇿🇲 Zambia--
🇿🇼 ZimbabweAgainst
🏴󠁢󠁡󠁢󠁩󠁨󠁿 Bosnia and HerzegovinaIn favor

Not surprisingly, all NATO countries voted in favor of suspending Russia from the Council. This includes Turkey, which has taken a more neutral stance than other allies since the invasion began. Altogether, 93 countries voted for the resolution.

On the other side, 24 countries voted against the resolution. China is perhaps the most significant “no” vote, citing a lack of openness and transparency in the process. Of course, Russia itself voted against the resolution.

A number of countries abstained from voting, most notably, India. Leading up to the vote, Moscow indicated that even an abstention would be viewed as an “unfriendly gesture” with consequences for bilateral ties.

This suspension adds to the list of actions taken against Russia—including heavy sanctions—as the country becomes more isolated from the international community—particularly Western nations.

What Does the UN Human Rights Council Do?

The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is a UN body whose mission is to promote and protect human rights around the world.

The Council investigates breaches of human rights in UN member states and member countries address big picture human rights issues.

How Does the UN Human Rights Council Work?

The Council consists of 47 members, elected yearly by the General Assembly for staggered three-year terms.

Using the UN regional grouping system, members are selected to represent a diverse and fair mix of countries from around the world. Until its suspension, Russia was one of the two countries representing Eastern Europe, along with Ukraine.

Members are eligible for re-election for one additional term, after which they relinquish their seat.

Where does this data come from?

Source: The United Nations

Correction: An earlier version of this graphic had a Colombian flag in the “abstain” section. It has been replaced with the correct flag, Cambodia. Austria was also erroneously grouped with NATO countries.

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