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

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decline in u.s. car production chart

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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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Super-Sized Bets for Football’s Big Game (2013-2022)

Expanding legalization has driven an increase in bets on football’s big game, with wagers more than doubling from 2021 to 2022. (Sponsored Content)

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Dollar value of bets for football's big game shown over the last ten years using footballs. The football is much bigger in 2022 to indicate that bets doubled from 2021 to 2022.

The Briefing

  • Sports betting became legal outside Nevada when the federal ban was lifted in 2018.
  • Legalization contributed to betting growth, with wagers on football’s big game increasing ten-fold over the last decade.

Super-Sized Bets for Football’s Big Game

With 99 million viewers in 2022, “more Americans tune in to the Super Bowl than any other television broadcast.” Its large viewership, combined with expanding legislation, has led to ballooning wagers.

In this graphic sponsored by Roundhill Investments, we show how these bets have grown over the last 10 years.

Annual Legal Bets on the Big Game

From 2013 through 2018, sports betting was only legal in Nevada and year-over-year growth was low. However, when the federal sports betting ban was lifted in May 2018, more states started allowing bets.

By 2022, 33 states plus Washington, DC were legally able to bet on the game. Wagers climbed quickly as a result.

YearTotal BetsAnnual Growth
2013$99M5%
2014$119M21%
2015$116M-3%
2016$133M14%
2017$138M4%
2018$159M15%
2019$191M20%
2020$280M47%
2021$486M73%
2022$1.1B119%

Data only for states that report bets on football’s big game, see graphic for full list of states included in 2022.

Impressively, legal bets surpassed the $1 billion mark in 2022. Growth was primarily driven by New York State legalizing online sports betting, with the state contributing nearly $500 million to the total.

Since the New York State Gaming Commission does not report event-specific totals, we have estimated this amount based on sports bets made the week leading up to and including the date of the big game.

Investment Exposure to an Emerging Industry

Due to legalization, bets on football’s big game have grown 10 times larger over the last decade. A further shift away from bookies and toward legal operators appears to be likely. In September 2022, 89% of Americans said it was important to bet with a legal operator this NFL season, up from 76% in February 2022.

For legal operators, this could translate into revenue opportunities. Companies that take legal bets reported more than $62 million in revenue from the big game alone in 2022, a 37% jump from the prior year.

Looking for exposure to the growing sports betting industry? Explore Roundhill’s sports betting ETF, $BETZ.

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