Guessing where the next New American auto plant will locate is a tough sport. Auto plants are won and lost on unpredictable variables. It could come down to whether a state will build an interstate offramp.
But the clear and general direction for plant locations of late has been south by southwest.
From 1982 to 1992, Japanese automakers picked plant sites no farther south than Smyrna, Tenn. There, Nissan Motor Co. built its first U.S. assembly operation.
In that period, Japanese and Korean auto plants also opened in Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, California, Ontario and Quebec.
But since 1992, new plants have gone to Alabama, South Carolina, Mississippi and Texas.
Cost is a big reason for the shift. In the case of the three automakers that have gone into Alabama since 1995, the state is picking up their employee training costs.
And in the case of two of the newest plants, Hyundai Motor Co. in Alabama and Nissan in Mississippi, the automakers plan to pay lower employee wages than competing automakers.
In the case of Toyota Motor Corp., the company's Texas plant also hopes to cut costs by tapping more deeply into a Mexican supply base. That's something that its plants in Kentucky, Indiana and Ontario have done little of so far.