This year, foreign-owned assembly plants in North America could build nearly as many cars and trucks as the factories of the downtrodden Detroit 3.
Through mid-May, those plants trailed General Motors, Ford and Chrysler by fewer than 350,000 units. Through that same period last year they were almost 1 million units behind the Detroit 3.
The foreign plants could close the gap even more before the year is over. Chrysler stands to lose 80,000 to 100,000 units a month while its plants are closed as the company works through Chapter 11 reorganization.
GM is reducing output by 190,000 units while it is shut down for nine weeks this summer. And who knows what could happen to output if GM files for bankruptcy.
It's quite a turnaround. Last year, the Detroit 3 built 7,501,721 vehicles, compared with 5,168,496 units produced in foreign-owned plants. In 2007, the U.S. companies built 9,543,433 to the foreigners' 5,618,228.
Go back to 2000, and the Detroit 3 led 13,410,091 to 3,886,446.
U.S. companies still have far more plants. The Detroit 3 have 47 in North America, including GM's Janesville, Wis., plant, which closes this week. The transplants have 27 plants.