N.A. production almost back to normal, but it's not business as usual
Robinet: "Regional suppliers will be under more and more pressure to act and be global."
Editor's note: The previous version of this story contained an incorrect estimate for 2012 North American production.
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- Vehicle production in North America is gradually returning to pre-recession levels, but suppliers won't be able to return to business as usual.
Automakers are expected to produce 17.4 million vehicles in North America in 2016, up from a likely 14.9 million units this year, said Michael Robinet, a managing director of IHS Automotive Consulting, based in suburban Detroit.
But automakers are producing more and more "world cars" in North America -- a trend that strongly favors big global suppliers, Robinet said.
Currently, 74 percent of vehicles built in North America are derived from global platforms, up from just 20 percent in 2000.
Moreover, just 30 percent of those vehicles were designed in North America. Suppliers who want to make components of those vehicles should be able to produce components in all major markets — not just North America.
"Regional suppliers will be under more and more pressure to act and be global," Robinet said. "Automakers are shifting their sourcing strategies faster than ever before."
To be sure, North America is starting to look like an attractive low-cost production region. Due to the strong yen, Japanese automakers with assembly plants in North America are eager to move their remaining Japan-based suppliers to the United States or Mexico.
European luxury automakers also are moving capacity to North America to avoid currency fluctuations.
But vehicle production will be increasingly concentrated. Robinet says the world's top five automakers will account for 70 percent of North American production. The likely outcome? The world's mega-suppliers will get even bigger.
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