DETROIT -- The future geography of America's auto industry is likely to boil down to North vs. South, speakers told a Federal Reserve Bank conference here Tuesday.
Researchers Thomas Klier and James Rubenstein said they expect traditional U.S. automakers to remain anchored in the Midwest. Foreign-owned car companies will solidify their footprint in Southern states, they predicted.
Klier, a senior economist with the Fed, said that seven of nine import-brand assembly plants that have opened since 1990 are in the South.
"The underlying trends are pointing south," Klier said.
The researchers also said that segments of the auto parts industry - notably electrical components and chassis - are drifting farther from their roots in Detroit.
But other segments, such as auto body parts, remain entrenched in the Midwest, they said. Half of all body parts made in the United States, they noted, are produced within about 200 miles of Detroit.
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